Every year, Appleton’s men farmers race with a sack of potatoes over their shoulders for prize money of $1000; and, every year, local women compete in the race for prize money of $200. When former local Penny moves back to Appleton as its GP and learns of this financial discrepancy, she vows to do something about it.
But many in Appleton feel that equalising the prize money would break with a time-honoured tradition going back for at least the 32 years that Mrs Armstrong, the head of the race-organising committee, has been running the show for. Some take it as an attack on Appleton’s identity. Life’s difficult enough, with an influx of refugees, homosexuals, and vegetarians, without having to also manage notions of an impossible equality. Making the prize money equal for men and for women: that’s a bridge too far. Besides, the men carry a sack filled with 50 kilograms of potatoes whilst the women carry just 20 kilograms. What more need be said!
The story, based on playwright Melanie Tait’s own experience, somewhat reflects the arbitrary events that occur in real life. The tale and its incidentals are easy to relate to; the play reflects well the inexplicable ways in which people react to challenges to their ideas and shows us our quirky selves through characters we might meet anywhere. With great lighting and sound production, an innovative set, and watchable characters arising from the production’s five actors, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race brings the atmosphere of a small Australian country town to life and shows us amusing aspects of our national character through many laugh-out-loud lines. It’s well worth seeing just for that.
— JOHN P. HARVEY