6 Reasons to Get Tickets to ’37’: A Gripping New Play Exploring Australian Rules Football

37 play
Pia Johnson

How long has it been since you’ve had a night out that perfectly encapsulates the mix of thought-provoking ideas and laugh-out-loud humour that ignites conversation far beyond your seat at the theatre? “37” by Nathan Maynard is about so much more than footy, and it’s sure to delight—so grab your friends and don’t miss out on this important work from Melbourne Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre.

1. It’s set around a pivotal moment in recent AFL history

Named after the number worn by Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes, 37 takes viewers back to a time when Goodes was at the centre of a national racism saga. Goodes was loved by AFL spectators because of his talent, leadership and determination both on and off the field. In May of 2013, Goodes was playing for Sydney Swans in the “Indigenous Round” match against Collingwood when a 13-year-old girl who was rooting for Collingwood called him “an ape.” Upon hearing this, Goodes asked security to have the girl removed from the stadium, which caused division amongst the crowd. What followed was a media circus. Then, in 2014, Goodes was named Australian of the Year, and it looked like the controversy was behind him.

In a 2015 match against Carlton, Goodes celebrated kicking a goal with an Aboriginal war cry dance directed towards opposition fans in the stands. The dance ended with an imaginary spear throw towards the Carlton supporters, resulting in an uproar from the crowd. AFL supporters all across Australia falsely believed that the dance was meant to represent the spearing of all white people.

The subsequent scrutiny, both on and off the field, was unbearable for Goodes, and he eventually left the game after 18 years of playing elite football and winning countless medals and premierships. Although not a biopic about his life, Goode’s legacy and the controversy with which his career came to be associated – penetrates every sinew of this work. Themes of unity, identity and racism are explored through the dynamics of a local team, the Currawongs, from a small coastal town, representing a microcosm of the nation. 

2. It includes a must-see cast

This brilliant ensemble piece features AACTA Award-winner Ngali Shaw (“The Twelve”) and Tibian Wyles as the Marngrook cousins and new recruits of the Currawongs. Ben O’Toole (“Boy Swallows Universe”) fits the part of the deeply conflicted captain of this local club, while Eddie Orton is unsettling as the play’s repugnant villain. The play also features Syd Brisbane, Mitchell Brotz, Samuel Buckley, Costa D’Angelo, Thomas Larkin and Anthony Standish to round out the cast of 10.

3. It’s packed with laughs and is oozing charisma

At times very sweary and a little sweaty, this powerhouse production promises to hit hard with the laughs and searing social commentary. You’ll chuckle and snort at all the locker room antics and team-bonding exercises at pre-season training, often in moments where you’re least expecting the humour to shine.

4. The choreography will blow you away 

The opening prologue of “37” immediately grips the audience with its fusion of traditional Aboriginal dance and vocalisation, setting a vibrant tone for what follows. Directed by Isaac Drandic and co-choreographed by Waangenga Blanco, known for his work with Bangarra Dance Theatre, the production is a dynamic, visually striking spectacle. Packed with mesmerising physical sequences to simulate match play, you’ll see spectacular marks and elegant drop-punts on stage. The production’s dynamism is heightened by moments where the action spills into the auditorium, immersing the audience in the spectacle, particularly with a walkway created behind the first rows of seats.

5. It’s the latest creation from an acclaimed First Nations creative duo

“37” is the fifth collaboration from the creative duo of playwright Nathan Maynard – twice named Tasmanian Aboriginal Artist of the Year – and director Isaac Drandic (“The Birthday Party”, ABC’s “Cleverman”), whose previous works have been celebrated for their heart, wit and bold storytelling. “37” comes at a pertinent time after the extremely disheartening Indigenous voice to parliament debate…

6. This isn’t just another play about footy

Whether or not you’re a footy fanatic, this play is a must-see. It’s a no-brainer that “37” will be well received in the AFL hub of Victoria, where footy culture is so deeply ingrained in Melburnians’ psyches, but this play is about so much more. “37″ is an honest celebration of community, team spirit and brotherhood. At its core, it’s a deeply felt and cannily crafted exploration of our colonial past and the challenges we face for reconciliation today. It’s a poignant reminder that meaningful conversations are more than just a ball toss – it matters where you stand. 

“37” is now showing at Melbourne’s Southbank Theatre until April 5th and Queensland’s Billie Brown Theatre from April 11th to May 4th. 

Tickets are selling fast, so get in quick. Book here now.

U30? Get 50% off all full-price tickets for the Melbourne season.