Following a successful Pacific nation tour, with capacity shows on the excised Christmas Island, PNG’s Manus Island and smaller shows on Nauru, the hit DIAC musical ‘Children in Detention!’ is making its long awaited return to the Australian mainland.
Starring Brendan O’Connor as ‘The Immigration Minister,’ the 2013 version of ‘Children in Detention!’ will premiere at the Wickham Point Theatre later this year. Plans are also underway for shows at Western Australia’s Curtin Entertainment Centre. Both venues are currently undergoing refurbishments, to lift their capacity from 1,500 to 2,100, such is the expected popularity of the shows.
‘Children in Detention!’ last played in Australia in 2005, with Amanda Vanstone in the role of Immigration Minister. The production is remembered for its shocking images and depictions of violence and was closed amid a storm on controversy, including reports of ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment’ of the shows stars. Unsurprisingly, the announcement this month that ‘Children in Detention!’ would again play to Australian audiences drew mixed reactions in the community.
Former stars of the musical including John Howard, who won several awards for his role as Australian Prime Minister, Philip Ruddock, remembered for his uncompromising role as Immigration Minister and former Minister of Defence Peter Reith, famous for the ‘Children Overboard’ spin off series all welcomed the return, hailing it as long overdue.
Despite former stars welcoming the reopening, critics were not difficult to find, with the Refugee Council of Australia, Australian Greens Party, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, several human rights lawyers, politicians on both sides and several other NGO’s all raising concerns for the welfare of the show’s vulnerable, under age stars.
Brushing aside the criticism, Julia Gillard, who will be playing the role of Australian Prime Minister, said it was the right time to reopen the show. She argued that with increasing numbers of asylum seeker children arriving in Australia and an overwhelming public appetite for action, the ALP production company was left with no choice. At a press conference in Canberra this week she explained that the company canvassed other ideas such as ‘Community Processing!’ ‘Work Rights!’ and ‘My Fair Process,’ however an online News Limited survey found a lack of public support for the concepts. Julia Gillard and Brendan O’Connor also revealed they will be renaming the show, to the reportedly ‘more accurate,’ though less catchy ‘Children in alternative places of detention!’ so as to distinguish it from the Howard era show and make it appear more family friendly.
Tony Abbott, who played a minor role in the John Howard directed production, was coy on any plans he had to star in the show. Abbott repeated that he is committed to his lead role in ‘Stop the Boats!’ and would not be drawn on any future plans.
Pre sale tickets for ‘Children in Detention!’ sold out in minutes after the box office opened on August 13 last year. A second release is expected if demand warrants extra shows. Offshore productions on Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru are expected to continue, with ‘The Manus Palace’ undergoing an urgent ‘appropriateness’ upgrade and plans for a 1,700 capacity in Nauru’s ‘Topsite’ Entertainment Arena.
Tickets for ‘Children in Detention!’ can be purchased at any of the No Advantage Box Offices in Christmas Island or Geraldton.