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Review: Wool! A History of Australia's Wool Industry: The Musical at The Butterfly Club

By Jenna Schroder

As it says on the can, Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical explores the history of Australia’s Wool Industry. Namely, the show focuses on the lives of John and Elizabeth Macarthur who, with help from a few other key players, engineered the wool industry that has grown into a staple of Australian agriculture and farming today. Some history-phobes out there may leer and look for laughs elsewhere but that would be a damn shame as this show by Kit Richards is endearingly entertaining despite its educational twist.

Like so many women in history, Elizabeth Macarthur has been largely ignored. This is despite her integral role in orchestrating the farm’s success and it is surprisingly touching to watch Richards put Elizabeth firmly in the spotlight. As the show continues to grow there is definitely room to expand this focus and develop Elizabeth as a character, as her responses to various decisions and the behaviour of her husband is one dimensional at times.

Wool! doesn’t claim to be more than it is. Richards recognises that her narrow focus has left the colonial actions that underpin the Macarther’s narrative untouched. The show could definitely fit in a musical number (or two, or three) that delves into what had happened and was happening to Indigenous groups in the NSW region where the Macarthers were using stolen land for their farm.

Richards commands the stage with a quiet confidence. There aren’t bells and whistles between numbers as she talks about the Macarther’s but the story Richards has constructed is compelling enough that nothing else is needed.

That’s not to say Richards can’t read the room and ad lib with the best of them. Her quips are witty, delivered comfortably and keep the laughs rolling. Richards successfully creates a sense that everyone in the room is on this Wool Industry knowledge quest together and are just excited by that fact as she is.

For a musical, the songs are simple and there is a distinct lack of catchy tunes. Even Richards herself doesn’t seem entirely confident in the musical material, her delivery more subdued and wary than when she’s talking it out.

But Wool! rides on the coattails of Kit Richards’ likeability and loving treatment of the material. Yes, some may expect the content to be dry but under Richards careful hands the story jumps along with perfect pacing, riveting drama and emotional oomph.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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