Do you remember the Australian film Lantana? It came out in the first year  of this century, and it was one of the best films we’ve made.  It stood head and shoulders over quirky, funny films like Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert because Australians could  “see themselves in this film” rather than “exaggerations of themselves,” {1} portrayed for comic effect.

I was thinking about Lantana as I’ve just finished reading Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, the play on which the film was based.  (This  was one of my finds in Imprints on National Booksellers’ Day: they have a great selection of play scripts.) Reading a play makes a change from my usual mental diet, fiction sprinkled with a very selective range of non-fiction. It’s demanding in a different way: reading dialogue rather than description, visualizing characters that you may have already seen on the stage or the screen. In the case of  Speaking in Tongues, I was remembering both the actors in the film (Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey) and the four State Theatre Company members who took on the nine different roles in the play last year.

Bovell’s play is about “the right and wrong of emotional conduct … I have faith that the audience {will} leave the theatre as haunted by these people as I am, and perhaps asking the same questions they do. How do I conduct myself in this world? How do I survive it? ” (Playwright’s Note, vii). If you remember the film Lantana, you will know that the characters’ dilemmas are emotional ones, centering on love, fidelity, jealousy and grief – feelings that are often examined in fiction as well as on the stage.

Buy, borrow, beg or steal a copy of this play: I can’t recommend it highly enough as a great piece of Australian writing and theatre. And definitely watch Lantana on DVD!


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