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WORLD PREMIERE: THE HOTEL HIBISCUS BY ROBERT COCKBURN ZENITH THEATRE, CHATSWOOD 19-27 OCTOBER

BY Geoff Sirmai | 26-Sep-2012
Timely political thriller for Sydney stage. Who would believe that the Australian Government had an involvement in the death of 15,000 innocent people? Robert Cockburn’s The Hotel Hibiscus is an Australian political thriller that questions our complicity and silence in war crimes carried out just 20 years ago.

Sent secretly to a Pacific island off Papua New Guinea (the fictional island of Hibiscus) to run a dirty war for an Australian gold mine, Colonel Chris Baulkham falls in love with Dr Patty Carmichael, a 30 year-old academic whom he fools into providing his cover.

As Patty cleans up her late father’s hotel, the Colonel is cleaning up the war crimes of his foreign minister’s failed war. Colonel Baulkham is a puppeteer, juggling his and Patty’s worlds as she and her staff unwittingly risk their lives to support his gruesome work. Politics becomes dangerously personal and the strings begin to tangle as Patty uncovers the inconceivable truth. This play about the misuse of soldiers was inspired by the conflict in the 1990s for control of an Australian mine on Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville Island. An astonishing 15,000 civilians - or nearly 10% of the population – were to die. By uncovering the misuse of soldiers for political and corporate greed, Cockburn’s work reveals how decent people can become complicit in crimes against humanity.

Robert Cockburn reported on the Bougainville conflict for The Times, the BBC, the ABC and to Amnesty International after investigating the army’s murder of a young bus driver. By coincidence, within weeks of Epicentre’s bold decision to perform the play, the United States Supreme Court gave survivors of the conflict in Bougainville permission to bring an unprecedented action of ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ against mining giant Rio Tinto Zinc. As The Hotel Hibiscus goes on stage, some real and difficult questions are being asked of RTZ and those responsible in Australia who turned their backs on the people of Bougainville, choosing to stay silent while thousands died.

The Hotel Hibiscus is directed by Greg Friend and stars a superb cast of Australian stage and film actors with Aboriginal star Billy McPherson (Dead Heart with Bryan Brown), Dominic McDonald straight from his lead role in The Tempest Steampunked for the Sydney Fringe Festival, Amanda Jermyn, Sopa Enari, Colin Huxley, Charlotte Hazzard - fresh from graduating from WAAPA - and Sudanese-born Mandela Mathia in his stage debut.

Epicentre Theatre Company presents

THE HOTEL HIBISCUS by Robert Cockburn
18-27 October Zenith Theatre, Chatswood
Railway & McIntosh Streets (near Chatswood Station)
Performances: Fri 19th 8pm, Sat 20th 8pm, Sun 21st 5pm,
Thu 25th 8pm, Fri 26th 8pm, Sat 27th 2pm and 8pm.
Tickets $28 / $20 conc. Bookings call: (02) 9777 7547 or online www.epicentretheatre.org.au