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Timely play asks the big questions

Laura Peppas

The timing of new production, Extinction, probably couldn’t be more perfect.

In the wake of the federal election and with discussion steering towards climate change, the play, premiering at Canberra Theatre Centre from 20 July, is set to be a talking point for audiences.

Set on the windswept coast of southern Australia, Extinction draws attention to the plight of the endangered tiger quoll – the largest marsupial predator on the Australian mainland.

Passionate environmentalist Piper Ross (Ngaire Dawn Fair) and an unlikely good samaritan, mining executive Harry Jewell (Colin Lane) are both hell-bent on saving the quoll, with the two characters bonded by their attempt to save its life.

The work of Helpmann award winning playwright and screenwriter Hannie Rayson (Hotel Sorrento, Life After George), Extinction is described as a heart-rending parallel between native species extinction and our own impending mortality, and raises the question: in the age of global warming, how are we to live?

Natasha Herbert plays research scientist Heather Dixon-Brown, and her character faces a compelling dilemma. Her employer, the CAPE Institute, is desperately underfunded, cutting programs back to bare bones. When a mining company enters the picture and offers up swaths of cash, Heather is forced to decide: Does she take the money and carry on with her good work, even if it comes with an agenda?


Ngaire Dawn Fair in Extinction.

Natasha says the “beautiful thing” about the play is that nothing is in black and white.

“It shows four very different point of views, but the person you might consider to be the villain of the piece, like the coal mining executive, is actually an incredible likable and charming character who has feelings and cares,” Natasha says.

“He grew up on the land, his marriage is falling apart but he wants to spend his money on saving the species. You get to see things from his perspective. I think the audience will align itself with different people throughout different parts of the play, and then see another side, which will be really interesting.”

As one of Australia’s most significant playwrights, Hannie Rayson has a reputation for setting the relationships of her characters against the backdrop of a topical issue.

“The characters are all very real and dealing with very real issues, so I’d like to think it will touch and move people and the audience will connect with the characters,” Natasha says.

“It will be great to show this in Canberra, where all the politicians are – there’s a real relevance there.”

Natasha’s hope is that the play can “create a sense of urgency” around environmental sustainability.

“Hopefully it helps people realise we shouldn’t have our head in the sand about these issues,” she says.

“To me I hope the audience comes away with a sense that, no matter what your politics or beliefs are, we’re all connected and human beings, so as human beings we’ve also got to find some point in order to deal with the crisis or dilemma our planet’s in.”

the essentials

What: Red Stitch Actors Theatre and Geelong Performing Arts Centre’s Extinction
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: 20 – 23 July 2016
How much: Tickets from $30 – $55


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author