Kate Mulvany’s The Danger Age is a joyful, light-hearted romp of a play. It has its moments of poignancy, but the overwhelming feeling is one of hope.
I saw a performance of The Danger Age at La Boite in 2008 and have enjoyed going back and reading the script. Kate Mulvany’s concept for the play is delightful:
John Curtin is ten years old and named after Australia’s prime minister. He’s bullied and teased for his name, his constant asthma and his single mother who is considered the town slut. John’s only friend is an older Aboriginal girl, Albert (after the painter Albert Namatjira). When John turns ten, Albert tells him that it’s his danger age. That more ten year olds die than any other age.
ALBERT: Cos ten year olds seek excitement. Thrills. They climb rocks. Swing from trees. Do bombies. Give Chinese burns and Camel bites. […] God, the things I did when I was ten…Living on the edge. That’s what being ten’s all about.
Albert reckons that, of all the kids turning ten that year, John’s the least likely to die of an adventurous cause.
ALBERT: You’re not gonna be eaten by any sharks. You won’t snap your neck diving into the gorge. You won’t drown swimming the channel. Before you know it, you’ll be eleven and you still won’t have looked death in the eye. Tempted it. Had its breath hot on your skin. Your tenth year is going to be a breeze. Poor thing.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt calls direct enquiries to get John Curtin (PM)’s number, he inadvertently ends up calling John Curtin of Kalbarri instead. It’s February 1942 and the Japanese are bombing Darwin. Roosevelt has called Curtin to tell him that MacArthur is on his way and that they’ll draw a line across from Brisbane. They’ll fight for everyone south of the line and everyone north can be taken by the Japanese.
John gets off the phone, looks at an atlas and realises that Kalbarri is right on the line. His danger age has come as he, Albert, his mum, half-sister and his mum’s Japanese boyfriend must fight for the town.
The second half of The Danger Age tries to be too many things at once and some devices, like Glenys’s sock puppet alter-ego, are unbelievable. Glenys is John’s half sister and hasn’t started school yet. But Trevor, her sock puppet, has a vocabulary well beyond Glenys’s grasp and is treated as if he’s real by everyone including, in a most unlikely scene, the policeman:
POLICEMAN: […] And I’m gonna put the corpses of those sock puppets in a big basket in my outhouse and I’m gonna use them all as dunny paper. Now … do you have any idea where I could find my first sock puppet victim, Trevor?
TREVOR: Well, before you wipe you may as well sew up our lips too, copper. ‘Cause no sock puppet’s ever gonna kiss your arse, mate.
Still, if you’re after a crowd pleasing, feel good, lively and theatrical play, The Danger Age should be on your reading list.
Publisher: Playlab Press
Cast: 3M, 3F