The Season at Sarsaparilla set to sizzle

Settle in and watch the rise of suburbia in 1960s Australia as life on a new street unfolds.

The Season at Sarsaparilla follows the lives of three families during the sultry summer in a suburban neighbourhood in Sydney.

Director Leigh Oswin said Australian classic by Nobel laureate Patrick White didn’t hold back, creating a “dynamite script”.

Set in the middle of the Cold War, the hostilities between Russia and the United States were ignored.

Instead White made a pointed effort to focus on neighbourhood politics throughout the show, he said.

“Patrick White, the author, is making some quite subtle, but quite scathing remarks about the Australian psyche and culture at the time.”

Although Oswin was quick to point out, “as much as it’s set in the 60s, there’s a lot of parallels to today”.

“That sense that we’re always moving around in our brick boxes and our lives are very much structured within those four brick walls is a constant run throughout the play.”

Expect to see a bit of “razzle dazzle” where White hit the fast forward button on the mundane activities of suburban life, he said.

The play had a competitive auditioning process for the sixteen characters, which started earlier in the year. 

“The depth of theatre talent in Launceston is huge,” Oswin said.

It was a strong sign for the Launceston theatre scene that large productions could be rehearsed and performed around the same time and didn’t leave productions scrounging for actors, he said

The eight-week rehearsal process was coming to an end with opening night on September 20.

Actors had to work especially hard as the play would have few props.

“We’re using almost 100 per cent mime … so the kitchens are literally going to be furnished with linoleum floor, some tables and chairs,” Oswin said.

“That’s been a real challenge for the cast to come up with the goods and work on the movement and the choreography of the piece as well as coordinating exits and entrances.”

Among the characters, there is a pregnant mother, young model, business executive and Ernie Boyle, a sanitary man.

“Ernie Boyle is the symbol for, I think, the vulnerability of the Aussie male and that sense of the bravado of the masculine and what it means to be a bloke, which is really shattered by his realisations about his wife during the play,” Oswin said.

Expect dalliances, puberty blues, and “dreams to break out of the brick boxes of suburbia” as the audience is treated to a slice of Sydney suburbia.

  • Three River Theatre will perform The Season of Sarsaparilla at the Earl Arts Centre at 8pm on September 20, 21, 22 and 23 with a 2pm show on September 23 and a 4pm show on September 24. Tickets are available for $36 for adults and $29 for concession from the threerivertheatre website.