Comedian, writer and actor Damian Callinan is bringing his acclaimed one-man show The Merger to Ararat.
The Merger centres on Bodgy Creek Roosters Football Club and coach Troy Carrington, the subjects of a previous Callinan play, Sportsman's Night.
Bodgy Creek Roosters is a fictional club, but Callinan said plenty about it that seems real.
"Every town I go to they go 's---, that's our club'," he said.
"I had one town where the president said to me beforehand, 'we merged with another club, and the wounds are still raw. We'll go to their home games, but they won't come to ours'.
"I said, 'gee mate, that's no good. How long ago was the merger?' And he said, '1987'."
Callinan said revisiting the club provided a great chance to explore racism in regional communities.
"Regional Arts Victoria approached me and said they had funding through Vic Health to basically use the arts to address racism," Callinan said.
"They said, 'you've already got the characters at the Bodgy Creek Roosters with the racist club president and the forward-thinking coach'."
Callinan said aspects of the Bodgy Creek Roosters were based on actual events.
"The original play was loosely based on a true story about a footy club that had been banned for three years for consistent violent outbursts on and off the field. The play was about addressing that culture that sometimes seeps into some clubs.
"So it already had a social message behind it, and then I came up with the idea, 'well what if it's a few years down the track and the club culture has changed to a degree, but they just don't have enough players, so the coach comes up with the idea of recruiting refugees.'
"Because I knew what they wanted to achieve, I had to make the play as accessible as possible, so regional audiences would come along and be entertained and recognise all the characters: the belligerent club president, the vague secretary who has the job of organising everything but can't organise a s--- in the toilet.
"It's about empathy, it's about the audience and the characters getting to know these refugees and getting to know their stories and their backgrounds, rather than just making snap judgments."
Callinan said the play bears several differences from its 2018 film adaptation.
"I decided not to chase the film and leave the play as it was, which makes it more interesting for those in the audience who have already seen the film," he said.
"There are characters in the play who don't exist in the film. There's no love interest in the one-man show because that would be a bit awkward. So, it's a very different experience."
Callinan said there had been a particularly positive atmosphere around the shows post-COVID-19.
"The audiences are really excited to be coming out again, and that creates an extra layer of joy in the room," he said.
'The Merger' will begin at Ararat Town Hall 7.30pm on Saturday 22 May 2021. Doors will open at 7pm. People are encouraged to arrive slightly earlier than usual to be checked in and seated safely before the performance.
To book tickets, visit www.ararattownhall.com.au or call (03) 5355 0900.
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