Entertainment Stage ‘The Castle’ creators take on the US President
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‘The Castle’ creators take on the US President

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Working Dog founders Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch are the creators of some of Australia’s most beloved comedy film and television.

From the inherently quintessential comedy The Castle and television audience favourite Thank God You’re Here to, of course, the box office hit and instant classic The Dish.

Despite a longtime parochial focus, the clever group has just set their sights on a new stratosphere: American politics.

Their newest offering, The Speechmaker, launches in Melbourne this week and follows the president of the United States as he embarks on a trip to London aboard Air Force One.

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According to co-writer Tom Gleisner, the international shift in focus was a natural one for the group.

“We could have set it on Tony Abbott’s plane,” Gleisner says, “but I think it’s having some mechanical problems at the moment so it would have been a very short play.”

Along with Cilauro and Sitch, Gleisner is a pioneer of political satire, responsible for singlehandedly building the paradigm that paved the way for shows like The Chaser’s War on Everything.

“There will always be room for scholarly considered articles I do think if you can make issues entertaining without trivializing them it’s a great way of helping people get a handle on areas of public policy,” he says.

The Working Dog team
The Working Dog team (L-R): Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner.

For The Speechmaker, the group was inspired by the ever-widening gulf between political rhetoric and action.

“It began with a very simple observation: political speech writing has never been better. However, these extraordinary words coming out of our politicians are moving further and further away from their actions,” Gleisner explains.

“You get wonderful language from a president who is, at the same time, organizing drone strikes or intercepting citizens’ emails.”

Fascinated by the idea that “even the off-the-cuff stuff is scripted”, the Working Dog team went from there, enlisting a strong Aussie cast (Kat Stewart, Lachy Hulme, Jane Harber and Erik Thomson) to bring it all to life.

Despite the change of pace and location, Gleisner assures his fans that Working Dog are still well and truly invested in Australia, especially when there’s so much good material to work with.

“For us a joke is a joke,” Gleisner says. “The humour, playfulness and silliness is identical regardless of the accent.”

MTC The Speechmaker 2014 photo JEFF BUSBY_1094
(L-R) Jane Harber, Erik Thomson, Kat Stewart and Nicholas Bell in ‘The Speechmaker’.

As for Australia’s current political climate?

“Interesting is a good adjective,” Gleisner laughs.

“We love weeks when parliament is sitting because it gives us endless inspiration. And when the Prime Minister is out of the country like he is now it’s like the relief teacher is on duty so things can just go anywhere.”

When it comes to The Speechmaker, Gleisner’s not ruling out the possibility it could eventually join The Dish and The Castle in the Working Dog film hall of fame.

After all, setting a movie on a presidential plane flight worked for Harrison Ford with Air Force One in 1997.

“It could become a film, or it could become a theme park,” Gleisner says. “We’re more on the Snakes on a Plane end of the scale, but at least we’re airborne.”

The Speechmaker
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
Season dates: 31 May to 5 July 2014
Opening night: Thursday 5 June 2014 at 8pm
Tickets: from $60; Under 30s just $33
Bookings: Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183 or artscentremelbourne.com.au