The year is 1967 and the socially awkward Helen has turned up to Randwick Racecourse alone. Helen can’t believe her luck when a stunning woman approaches her and sweeps her off her feet – but blonde bombshell Linda has ulterior motives…
“It’s just a whacky comedy about people’s inner thoughts, fears and desires,” explained director and producer Stephen Carnell. “It’s universal.”
Linda is a con-woman, she would normally set her sights on gullible men, but instead she lures Linda with the promise of a magical evening and convinces her to place a bet on a horse with the intention of stealing her winnings.
Carnell explained there were two reasons for setting The Punter’s Siren in the 1960s, the first is that “obviously homosexuality was a lot more tenuous in those days, and fraught with difficulties”. The second was the fashion. “We wanted to encapsulate the fashion change that happened the year before when Jean Shrimpton wore her famous white shift dress to the races in Melbourne and changed Australian fashion forever. And we found a dress just like that in a vintage shop in Surry Hills.”
The contrast in Helen and Linda’s costumes parallels the famous 1966 image of Shrimpton “standing there no gloves, no hat, no stockings just with this dress that everyone thought was really short” surrounded by gawking women dressed in 1940s-style conservative fashion.
Carnell is a stickler for detail, the play is “littered with little connections to the past” from the label on a bottle champagne, to wads of authentic 60s currency, to the names of the restaurants they want to splurge their winnings in.
Gina Schien originally wrote The Punter’s Siren as a radio play, but rewrote it as a stage play for the 2012 Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in response to feedback that women were being under-catered for in the Mardi Gras.
The initial run was met with great praise and the original “amazing” and “powerhouse” performers are back, with Jacqui Robson as Helen and Laura Viskovich as Linda.
“This is the best Australian play certainly that I’ve ever done, but possibly that I’ve ever read,” added Carnell. (AM)
Feb 17–Mar 5. Blood Moon Theatre, The World Bar, 24 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross. $21.89-$32.34. Tickets & info: eventbrite.com.au or theworldbar.com