Home Entertainment Washington State’s Black Swan Theater Company is staging Judge’s Barracks at the...

Washington State’s Black Swan Theater Company is staging Judge’s Barracks at the Subiaco Center for the Arts


For comedian, actor and radio host Andrea Gibbs, it doesn’t get much better than sitting on the sofa watching Aussie Rules with her dad Geoff.

Sport has always been a big part of her life, growing up in the south-west town of Donnybrook, despite never having played it herself.

In her day, the girls were dropped off at the netball court while their brothers, including Andrea’s brother Brendan, kicked Shereen around, sometimes dreaming of being Dons Donnybrook’s best power player or being selected in the WAFL or AFL.

“Dad played for Donnybrook in the late 1960s, early 1970s; it was pretty tough at the time and he tells me stories of them literally having to push cows off the oval to play,” shares Gibbs.

“Donnybrook is also a term for a fight, a chaotic fight in a crowded place. So I think that’s why the powerful dons were considered particularly cruel.

“There were no ambulances or anything at the ground when people were knocked out and he got hit quite badly, to the point where his mum said, ‘If you’re going to keep playing, you need to start wearing a helmet.’ So he did, but then he became more of a target. Eventually his local doctor said he should give it up, but he couldn’t give it up, so he became a judge.”

It soon became a running joke in the Gibbs household that Andrea’s mom, Trish, who followed her husband to all his games and cheered him on, was the only one on the court to ever umpire, which inspired the name of her debut game.

Camera iconA barrack for writer-judge Andrea Gibbs at the Subiaque Arts Center. credit: Michael Wilson/Western Australian

Commissioned by the Black Swan State Theater Company in Washington, D.C. and supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation and the City of Perth’s Funny Girl initiative, Barracking for a Judge takes a slightly different plot, where father hero Doug Williams is not pursued by the judge but suffers from the long-term effects of a brain injury sustained on playing days.

“Dad’s a little forgetful, but my mom probably sees it a lot more than I do,” Gibbs explains.

“He’s in his 70s now, but I don’t think those early hits have done him any good.

“I love football very much, but I was always very conflicted when I saw players being knocked off the ground. That’s when you start asking, “How interesting is that?” I guess that ambiguity and gray area is what interests me.”


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