Reviewed by: Smoko Henderson
While an immersive, collaborative performance piece is usually the kind of thing you would find at The Blue Room Theatre, PICA, Fringe World, or City of Perth Festival, you may have overlooked a fantastic play sprawling all around us.
We, the tax-payers, are ticket-holders. Behold the post-Brechtian Renaissance.
Enter $50 Billion Dollars for Twelve Submarines, the mysterious anti-hero of our play.
In a joint agreement between the Australian and French defence ministries, respectively, French Company Naval Group will be responsible for building 12 submarines for Australia. This was decided in 2016/17. It is going to cost fifty billion dollars, but we can’t afford good welfare. Australia is a complex character like that, engaging the audience.
But, like all interesting characters, there is a catch to French buddy Naval Group – not long ago, Naval Group had an entirely different name, a different past life: Naval Group once went by the name DCNS.
The audience quickly finds out this isn’t all about Naval Group: there is a dangerous ex-lover in the background.
While the French Government owns a large stake of Naval Group, formerly DCNS, making it partially a French state annexure, there is another international weapons manufacturer and logistics company, Thales Group, who own 35% of Naval Group.
Thales Group is a bit of a bad boy. Maybe a bit too bad. Or maybe – bad enough to persuade.
Was Australia prepared for this extra weight? Naval Group seemed so carefree, fun – but quickly, we, the audience, go along with Australia, the turbulent privacy hearings, and we learn about the unsavoury, dark element to Thales Group.
We are left emotionally confused, feelings of betrayal, intrigue – what else is Thales Group involved in?
Because you see, Thales Group does a bit of globetrotting, and right now, they’re in a bit of trouble in France for alleged bribery corruption in Brazil.
The only problem is – they’re alleged to have bribed ministers over submarine contracts.
Rotunda reached out to the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists for comment. A spokesperson said: “it definitely seems like something.”
And then they stopped replying to our e-mails.
So, what we know:
- Naval Group is partially owned by Thales Group
- We are paying $50 billion for Naval Group’s submarines
- Thales Group are under investigation in France for submarine contract corruption
- Thales Group was black-listed by the World Bank in 2004, for corruption in Cambodia
The news throws Australia into a spin. Who can Australia trust, now?
Australia, growing increasingly alarmed, takes a look into the local shipbuilding industry, then to Austal, then to the Australian weapons manufacturing industry, Lithgow Arms, which is also owned by Thales Group.
And, speaking of Austal – is Thales cheating on Naval Group, right in front of Australia’s face, with Australia’s shipbuilding industry Austal?
This is too many love triangles to count!
This play centres around a classic trope: a large sum of money, desired by multiple parties of questionable repute. The audience is left guessing which characters will and won’t act within the law. But it is the execution with which the directors have perfected this delicate, intimate affair, that truly brings the positivity in this review forward.