Barassi: The Stage Show
When: Until October 7
Where: Athenaeum Theatre, city
Preview: Angela Allan
The cast of Barassi: The Stage Show never tires of our nation’s game. During rehearsal breaks, they brought out the football and kicked it around.
“We’re all passionate football fans,” says Jane Clifton (pictured), who plays the show’s narrator, Melba. “The show combines my two loves – football and theatre.”
It tells the story of former Australian rules footballer, champion coach and now elder statesman Ron Barassi and is, says Clifton, an unusual synthesis of the arts and sport, “where you don’t feel embarrassed to be banging on about football”.
Melbourne-based actor Clifton, best known as hard-boiled jailbird Margo in the television series Prisoner, says the role of Melba is a challenge. In real life, Clifton is a long-time Essendon fan, whereas Melba is a die-hard Collingwood supporter.
“My acting award is seriously in the bag. This is a very tough role for an Essendon supporter to play,” she laughs.
“Melba’s a Collingwood fan because the club and the fans really suffered at the hands of Ron Barassi over the years, not just as a player, but then later as a coach.”
Barassi’s path to becoming an icon in the footy arena had its tragedies – his father, Ron Barassi senior, a talented footballer, was killed in Tobruk during World War II, leaving his son to be cared for and mentored by coach Norm Smith. The production traces back through these early days.
“He was really a Legacy boy,” Clifton says. “I think he is one of these figures that no matter who you barrack for, you realise the greatness of the man and the fact that he’s been a great inspirational speaker and was right at the forefront of making football a national game. He’s bigger than football in a lot of ways.”