I have sat in the ornate ballroom many times, biro and pad in hand to record the arguments aired at public meetings about many an environmental issue.

This time, it was about the slaughter of millions of penguins. But this time, it was to see ‘Hatch,’ a one-man show by Stuart Devenie for the Auckland Theatre Company production at Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island festival. Devenie is Hatch, the developer of Macquarie Island oil industry 100 years ago.

Devenie re-enacts one of the public lectures Hatch delivered around Australia and New Zealand in 1919, in defence of the penguin oil industry, for which penguins were herded, clubbed and boiled for a pint of oil for each bird. Hatch became the target of photographers such as Frank Hurley, Antarctic explorers of the ilk of Sir Douglas Mawson, scientists and writers, who deplored the industry. It was a campaign that found overwhelming support from a public horrified by the deaths of dear little penguins.

It’s a really good performance and all the more remarkable because the actual words are those of Hatch, as he fights against the environmental campaign mounted against him. Devenie delivers the speech using all the tricks he can muster - and he is a man with many tricks to draw upon -  from comedy to cunning argument against the forces marshalled against him. The occasional aside, as if to himself, of the tragic effect on his family, ensure we see him as a man, not a caricature.

The backdrop for the lecture is a series of slides of old black and white photographs,  which transport us to Macquarie Island,  and which Devenie incorporates into his performance by seemingly snapping at the projectionist for apparently failing to screen them on cue. But not only Macquarie Island - one of his international opponents, Baron Rothschild, is chided as a hypocrite for having a zebra harnessed in his carriage.

Hatch concludes his lecture by asking his audience to affirm a resolution in support of compensation for loss of his livlihood. It’s the end of the performance and we clap - thereby realising that we have been hoodwinked into giving him the support he seeks.

Hobart Town Hall.
March 29 and 30 at 6pm.
Around Tasmania:
Cygnet March 31 at 7pm.
Swansea April 2 at 7pm.
Launceston, April 3 and 4 at 6pm.
Rowella, April 5 at 4pm.

 

 

Margaretta Pos Review courtesy of Oz baby boomers
IT was with a sense of deja-vu that I walked into the Hobart Town Hall to hear Joseph Hatch mount a defence of the penguin oil industry.