Prehistoric by Marcel Dorney – Summerhall, Edinburgh

It is not well known in Britain that Queensland, in the late 1970s, was run by an   authoritarian state government lead by right-wing governor Joh Bjelke-Petersen. His police task force tackled anything they saw as youth rebellion by stripping off their badges and wading in with their fists. The sinister oppression, which Marcel Dorney’s play claims went as far as rape, coincided with the rise of punk in the western world, of which Australia felt itself a part. Prehistoric tells the story of the era through two girls and two boys who form a band, bringing them into conflict with the out-of-control police state.

The play features live songs, and is performed muscially and dramatically with great conviction. The four actors – Grace Cummings, Brigid Gallacher, Zachary Pidd and Sahil Saluja – are accomplished performers who create distinctive, contrasting characters from a range of backgrounds. The play is a wild ride, taking the audience from awkward teen encounters to the sweaty terror of raided gigs. A wide range of political issues are brought naturally and cleverly into the drama, from attitudes to race and sex discrimination in the workplace to the conflicted identity of Australians all too aware of  colonial privilege, while cut off from most of its benefits. Prehistoric is an impressive drama, which delivers a forgotten history as part of a compelling account of growing up, physically, culturally and politically.

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