Review: Eureka Day

What: Eureka Day
Who: State Theatre Company
When: 16-27 November
Where: Dunstan Playhouse
Tickets: here

Caroline Craig, Glynn Nicholas, Sara Zwangobani, Matt Hyde. Photo by Chris Herzfeld.

Earlier today I, for probably the 600th time since March 2020, read a comments section I knew I shouldn’t. The State Government announced that all teachers, volunteers, and contractors will need to be vaccinated to attend schools and child care centres. I knew what I was getting in for. I knew it was going to make me upset. But I see that view all comments button and I just can’t help myself. Eureka Day is a 2 hour and 10 minute foray into these comment sections, but with a bit more comic relief and ultimately a satisfying ending.

Eureka Day School is exactly the sort of private school you would expect to find in Berkley. The school prides itself on its social justice values and its inclusivity, filled with parents who have the good of the community at heart. Carina (Sara Zwangobani) begins a term on the school board, joining a panel of four other parents, right as the school experiences a viral outbreak. They become divided on the only issue that seems to be able to divide progressive parents like this: vaccination.

The play runs it course over a series of board meetings, following the parents as they deal with the outbreak of mumps throughout the school. In a bid to give a voice to the school community, the board live streams a meeting. The comments of the chat are projected onto the stage, a continuous thread of arguments, insults, and emojis that ultimately come to an end when things become too heated. The board is left to deal with a bigger issue. How can a committee that only makes decisions by consensus come to a consensus on a decision as divisive as this?

Juanita Navas Nguyen and Matt Hyde. Photo by Chris Herzfeld.

Each of the performers are excellent as the five archetypes of Berkley parents: tech guy Eli (Matt Hyde), fitspo mum Meiko (Juanita Navas-Nguyen), crunchy mum Suzanne (Caroline Craig), hippy-in-hiking-gear Don (Glynn Nicholas), and of course Carina, the newcomer (Sara Zwangobani). The stand out of the performers is Glynn Nicholas as Don, chair of the board and an older father who is desperate to keep the others happy. As he lightheartedly dances around the stage gently rubbing the parents’ shoulders in turn, his expressions and attempts to diffuse the tension are very entertaining.

The world of Eureka Day feels so real, and this is aided by outstanding set design and costuming by Meg Wilson. Meg has so accurately captured the quirks of the school, down the X is for Xenophobia plastered on the school wall, with the costuming creating perfect capsules of each of the parents.

Would Eureka Day have worked so well if I hadn’t watched it two years into a global pandemic and amidst anti-vaxxer protests? Honestly, probably not. While its relevance is what makes me enjoy it so much, it’s a quirky, funny, and clever play that successfully explores this complex and topical issue. It’s the antidote to the comment section, even if it means diving in.

4 out of 5 stars

Natalie Carfora

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