The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race

AAR Ensemble The Appleton Ladies' Potato Race Sharon Millerchip - photo by Christian TrinderFive women, a 50-year-old potato race and one huge battle for gender equality in small-town rural Australia, Ensemble Theatre presents the world premiere of Melanie Tait’s new comedy, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race from 26 March 2019.

Appleton is a small country town being forced into the present with a recent influx of wealthy city slickers, tree-changers and refugees. Simmering tensions come to a head when new GP Penny Anderson discovers that the famous Appleton Potato Race awards $1000 prize money for the men, and a measly $200 for the women.

When Penny decides to take steps to restore gender parity and coax Appleton into the 21st century, little could she have anticipated the spiraling, hilarious culture war that would follow. Inspired by real life events, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race is a comedy about our relationship to both history and change.

Through the lens of five female characters living in rural Australia we look in on ourselves as a nation. It’s a funny play with a huge heart that is not afraid to pack a punch. It is about rejection and acceptance; seeing the world as it really is and at the same time, daring to ask if it can be something more.

In the 21st century Australians are continually participating in global conversations around privilege and gender parity – spiraling gently provokes conversation around owning and celebrating our past while continuing to question our relationship with generational and social and political change.

Melanie Tait wrote this play in 2018 after her own experience when she ‘upset the potato cart’ for gender equality in her home town, Robertson, in the NSW Southern Highlands. “I couldn’t believe that in the 21st century the prize money would have such inequality for the men’s race and the women’s race so I started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the women’s prize and thought the whole town would support it. But they didn’t,” she said.

“What happened was a huge division – those who supported my campaign and those who hated it. It gave me an idea of how incredible people are who forge through a fight in their own community – who keep campaigning when it feels like everyone is against them. This inequality had been going on for years and I wanted to change it.” said Tait.

Directed by Priscilla Jackman, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race features a stellar cast of five fabulous women including Valeria Bader, Merridy Eastman (A History of Falling Things), Sapidah Kian, Amber McMahon (Tribes) and Sharon Millerchip (Shirley Valentine).

“I am thrilled we are presenting the wonderful The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race  and have the combined talents of director Priscilla Jackman and writer Melanie Tait at the helm,” said aid Mark Kilmurry, Director Ensemble Theatre. “This is a great story and a great cast in a comedy that speaks loudly about important contemporary gender issues.”

Director: Priscilla Jackman Featuring: Valeria Bader, Merridy Eastman, Sapidah Kian, Amber McMahon, Sharon Millerchip Set Designer: Michael Scott-Mitchell Costume Designer: Genevieve Graham Lighting Designer: Karen Norris Composer and Sound Designer: Tegan Nicholls Dramaturg: Jane Fitzgerald Assistant Director: Felicity Nicol Costume Supervisor: Hannah Lobelson Stage Manager: Nicole Robinson Assistant Stage Manager: Alira McKenzie-Williams


The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race
Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli
Season: 26 March – 27 April 2019 (previews: 22 – 24 March)
Information and Bookings: www.ensemble.com.au

Image: Sharon Millerchip stars in The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race – photo by Christian Trinder

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