REVIEW: We’re Banking On It by Bloomshed & MUST

In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the shadiest of operators in Australia is the supermarket duopoly, who can keep some prices down down, while manipulating our expectations and our wallet with loyalty schemes and advertising that promises they’re the Fresh Food People – while staying out of range of the poorest in our community.

Against the backdrop of this slippery system that most of Australia cannot escape, indie theatre darlings Bloomshed have returned to their roots – teaming up with the Monash University Student Theatre to construct a new take on Gogol’s classic, The Government Inspector.

Bloomshed & MUST’s original version of We’re Banking On It delved into Russian and Eastern European Politics. For this round, they are tackling front-page news –two supermarket chains dominating the landscape, while under-paying staff and screwing both consumer and producer. The perfect industry for the government to inspect.

It’s a rich area for Bloomshed to tackle from their socialist, anti-capitalist viewpoint and also for Monash students to bring in their own experience of being Gen Z in our current political and social quagmire.

We’re Banking On It is wild, in-your-face satire that skewers capitalism, consumerism and corporate culture. It might take aim at the supply chain of groceries, but it also hits government bureaucracy and settler colonialism and a society set up to benefit the well-off and screw over young people and the disadvantaged.

The audience is dropped into a well-choreographed stage show, the cast behind unsettling masks, the soundtrack reminding us that things are at breaking point. And we do get the story of the unsuspecting inspector questioning everyone about their complicity, but just enough so that the ensemble can give us stark reminders that their generation has been completely screwed out of comforts a generation or two before were welcome to.

The alchemical magic of Bloomshed’s Animal Farm and Paradise Lost is evident throughout, and though the ensemble is young and finding their feet, there are some stand-outs in the bunch. Luca Edward’s Chairman of the Board, Dick Ripper, brings the right kind of charming sleaze to make you almost believe some of what he’s saying about being on your side. The trio of Eloise Vernon, John Burgess and Cal Darvall as a gaggle of Mikes forms a kind of chorus of approval most of the time, until the backstabbing starts. As a gang, they are marvellous.

Bloomshed regular designer, Nathan Burmeister, creates a striking tableau of blue with the bold neon FRESH FOOD sign looming above the show. John Collopy’s lighting fully embraces the cabaret presentation, while weaving in noir elements as the plot thickens. It’s a beautiful show to look at.

What I loved most about We’re Banking On It is how up-to-date it is. With Woolworths boss Brad Banducci threatened with prison only weeks ago, this show is on the cutting edge – referencing the questions and the rhetoric of the Senate hearing several times and in one instance almost verbatim. Satire on stage is often left to year-end wrap ups or age-old social mores. In this show, we can laugh at things almost as they happen. And we can push our despair away for seventy-five minutes. Or if we can’t push it away, we can at least console ourselves in an audience that’s feeling the same way.

We’re Banking On It is a clever and classy takedown during a time when the cost of living could have dulled our sense of humour.

- Keith Gow, Theatre First

The show is on at Fortyfive Downstairs until May 26th

Photos: Elena Ruefenacht