The Life, Tales, Trials, Sentencing and Execution of Clarke the Flying Barber

The Life, Tales, Trials, Sentencing and Execution of Clarke the Flying Barber
Image: AUSTRALIA FELIX. Image: supplied

A new re-imagined Australian musical is on its way to the Roslyn Packer Theatre this month. Portraying classic Australian theatre and history, Australia Felix by Geoffrey Sykes works to address probing values of the past and present in an entertaining stage production. 

The play follows the life of runaway convict George Clarke in the early colony of NSW. Also known as “The Flying Bear”, Clarke lived with nine Aboriginal tribes and proved himself to be a great explorer, gaining the attention of the NSW Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell. 

AUSTRALIA FELIX. Image: supplied

Throughout the story, history is upended with visions of early Australia that resonate with current debates. 

Australia Felix was showcased at the Chippen Street Theatre in December 2023. It saw an enthusiastic audience and critical response, making the upcoming production highly anticipated. 

Playwright and director of the work, Geoffrey Sykes, states that the Rosyln Packer studio space is well suited to the new Australia Felix theatre piece.

AUSTRALIA FELIX. Image: supplied

“This revue show is presented by ‘travelling players’ in the tradition of ballads and storytelling,” says Sykes. 

“It’s set on the eve of the execution of the convict George Clarke, with the sandstone and brick wall of the studio a perfect ambient setting for a nineteenth century jail, where executions were public events.”

The work is theatrically inspired by Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss, which according to Sykes, “deliberately uses an entertaining convention to re-open questions of history”. 

Australia Felix embellishes the tale of Clarke and explores a debate between the two explorers, representing Australian identity and values. 

March 22 – April 6

Richard Wherrett Studio, Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay

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