Six actors on stage for play perforamance

Arts & Culture

Gripping new play a warning bell for the upcoming bushfire season

Published: 22 Aug 2023 12:36pm

After three years in development, a remarkable ensemble of six extraordinary actors breathe life into Unprecedented, a landmark new Australian play by multi-award-winning playwright, Campion Decent.

Wagga Wagga audiences will be amongst the first to see this new play, which was created in this region by HotHouse Theatre and has a star-studded cast that includes Riverina locals.

Unprecedented delves into the events of the 2019-2020 'Black Summer' bushfires that swept through the nation – right on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t hold a hose, mate.”

Based on Coronial Inquiry reports, testimonials, and submissions to the Royal Commission, including those infamous words of the former Prime Minister, Unprecedented stands as a rallying cry, an urgent theatrical work and powerful tribute to people fighting for their communities.

With heart and unexpected humour, the play speaks to the resilience of community, the long road to recovery, and the courage it will take to make change.

Campion Decent’s anger over what he sees as the inaction surrounding climate change became the spine of Unprecedented, providing a poignant contrast to the narratives conveyed by the media.

At the helm of this ground-breaking theatrical endeavour is the Riverina’s Karla Conway, an award-winning director, dramaturg, and theatre-maker, currently serving as the Artistic Director & CEO of HotHouse Theatre.

“We never had the opportunity to process it properly and recover or use the learnings to be more prepared for the next round of fires,” Karla remarked.

Six cast members of play standing in a line, each holding a different prop from the play
UNFLINCHING: The cast of HotHouse Theatre’s Unprecedented (from left) Rachel McNamara, Ari Maza Long, Billy McPherson, Noel Hodda, Lisa Maza, and Craig Alexander. Photo: Jasper Wood.

The play is meticulously researched, reflecting on the lasting impact of the fires, and the pivotal unpacking of the buzzword describing the event, asking ‘was it, in fact, unprecedented?’.

"The word 'unprecedented' became the buzzword of the Black Summer fires,” Karla said. “It’s a scapegoat word which suggests no one could have conceived this could happen or that we could have been prepared for it.

“We had ample reports and recommendations dating back to 1939, yet we find ourselves grappling with this catastrophe. How did we arrive at this point?"

The play sets out to challenge this idea and along the way takes audiences on a fascinating and entertaining journey through Australia’s relationship to the fire, the environment, and the changing climate.

The play features six artists, including three from the Riverina – Rachel McNamara, Noel Hodda and Craig Alexander – as well as Wagga-born and bred, sound designer Brendon Boney.

Unprecedented is supported by the Australian Government, Create NSW through the Rescue & Restart Program and was commissioned by HotHouse Theatre with the support of Playwriting Australia through the Ignition Program. Special thanks also to Arts on Tour.


Sat 2 Sept | 7:30pm
Running Time: 100 minutes, no interval.
Content Advice: Suitable for ages 15 and above. Contains strong language, descriptions, and references to bushfire and its impacts.

Book Tickets:

HotHouse Theatre is a regional creative powerhouse and first-class incubator of new Australian work. Located on the border in Albury Wodonga, HotHouse has been the home of professional theatre for over 25 years, with a rich and celebrated history of commissioning, nurturing, producing and presenting contemporary Australian theatre that ignites the imagination of the region and the nation.