Alana Valentine has written a number of plays that fall into the "docudrama" genre - including major plays like "Run Rabbit Run" (about the South Sydney rugby League team), "Parramatta Girls" (about the Parramatta Girls home) and "Head Full of Love" (about the Alice Springs beanie festival). She's stealthily become one of Australian drama's most prolific writers (she has five plays premiering this year, including two that are playing in Canberra, "Letters to Lindy" touring at the Canberra Theatre and "Cold Light"premiering at the Street). Her work is regularly carefully researched, using extensive interviews about the topic to create plays that reflect the issue at hand in an interestingly interrogative way.
"Ladies Day" is a little different. While it's based on research into the queer community in Broome, Valentine becomes a character in the play (here under the pseudonym "Lorena") - partially because it's as much about how the stories are told and who really owns them as much as the content of those stories. It's not a story that completely resolves itself in the course of the telling, but it raises a lot of fascinating questions to think about.
As the central story teller, Wade Briggs walks a tightrope between tensely withholding and emotional vulnerability expertly. Dry and defensive, but clearly also deeply in pain, he is the beating heart of the play. Matthew Backer provides excellent support as his friend. Lucia Mastrantone doubles as both the author-surrogate and as a cop, and differentiates nicely, as does Elan Zavlesky as the somewhat straightlaced Rodney and the predatory John.
A probing, thoughtful and emotional play, "Ladies Day" holds the attention with wit, heart and soul.