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More than three years af­ter they last shared a screen (and a fic­tional child) in the fifth sea­son of Off­spring, Deb­o­rah Mailman and John Wa­ters are re­united in Three Sum­mers, the new Aussie movie com­edy writ­ten and di­rected by ex­pat Brit Ben El­ton.

What is it that has th­ese two on a col­li­sion course?

“Well I don’t know,” says Wa­ters, a twinkle in his eye, “there’s just a lit­tle some­thing hap­penin’.”

“There must be a bit of chem­istry go­ing on!” whoops Mailman.

“We’re ready for the next thing we get cast in to­gether,” Wa­ters con­tin­ues. “We have a great rap­port, it’s just nice and easy.”

Adds Mailman: “What was great was know­ing that John and I have worked for so long to­gether, there was go­ing to be a fa­mil­iar­ity and com­fort with each other, so we could just hit the ground run­ning.”

“It was great for me,” says Wa­ters, “be­cause I just missed Deb. Not be­ing in­volved in sea­son six of

Off­spring, I missed out.”

Oh yes, they killed Darcy Proud­man off in sea­son six, didn’t they?

“Yeah,” Wa­ters chuck­les, “bas­tards.”

Years may have passed and the set­ting may be dif­fer­ent — Three Sum­mers takes place at a West Aus­tralian folk mu­sic fes­ti­val, where ro­mance is sparked and at­ti­tudes chal­lenged over three con­sec­u­tive years — but Mailman and Wa­ters have picked up right where they left off.

Just as Cherie and Darcy got it on in Off­spring, there’s some­thing sim­mer­ing be­tween

Three Sum­mers’ Pam and Ea­mon, al­beit tem­pered by the fact that he’s an al­co­holic mu­si­cian and she’s an AA coun­sel­lor.

“Ea­mon and Pam have a his­tory,” be­gins Mailman. “She’s re­formed, be­come AA, and is very much hov­er­ing around Ea­mon to try and con­vince him that he should be com­ing to th­ese meet­ings.”

Wa­ters: “She’s wait­ing for a chance to get at him. Usu­ally with al­co­holics, they’re ready to start a se­ri­ous at­tempt at re­cov­ery when they’re at a low ebb. So Ea­mon hits rock bot­tom dur­ing the course of th­ese three fes­ti­vals and be­comes ready, as it were. There’s ob­vi­ously a nice at­trac­tion be­tween Ea­mon and Pam, any­way.” Mailman: “Yeah, there’s a great ban­ter be­tween them. Pam knows all the tricks, she calls out Ea­mon’s bulls---, pretty much.” “And he ap­pre­ci­ates that,” says Wa­ters. “Ul­ti­mately, when you’re a bulls---ter, you don’t re­spect the peo­ple who ac­cept your bulls---; but when some­body comes back at you, you go, ‘Ooh, I like her!’”

El­ton took great pride in re­cruit­ing “Aus­tralia’s top A-list of comic and dra­matic ac­tors” for his film, sur­round­ing young stars Re­becca Breeds and Robert Shee­han with na­tional trea­sures, in­clud­ing Michael Ca­ton, Magda Szuban­ski and Kel­ton Pell.

Wa­ters and Mailman def­i­nitely fit the bill, but baulk at the nametag. “Na­tional trea­sure?” asks Wa­ters. “Makes us feel old,” says Mailman, break­ing into laugh­ter. How­ever, both were quick to sign up when El­ton came call­ing. “Hap­pily, I’d met Ben a few times so­cially,” Wa­ters says. “When he was out in Aus­tralia do­ing Stark (in the early 1990s) with Jac­qui McKen­zie, we stayed at the Como Ho­tel in Mel­bourne and we’d meet up in the evenings and chat away at the bar. Then I ran into him in Lon­don at the Grou­cho Club some years later. “Then this call came. I love Ben’s writ­ing and al­ways have done. I first saw him as a stand-up artist but then of course Black Ad­der and The Young Ones came around.” Like those clas­sic Bri­tish com­edy series, El­ton’s script for Three Sum­mers is a ver­bose de­light.

“I love the fact that some­body writes a lit­er­ate script like that. That re­ally ap­peals to me,” says Wa­ters.

“Ev­ery char­ac­ter is elo­quent in their own way — whether they say a lot or a lit­tle.”

“He el­e­vates di­a­logue,” Mailman agrees. “There’s a great rhythm, in­tel­li­gence and elo­quence to the way th­ese char­ac­ters speak.”

By bring­ing dis­parate strands of Aus­tralian so­ci­ety to­gether un­der the fes­ti­val big-top — from indige­nous per­form­ers to re­cent im­mi­grants — El­ton uses Three Sum­mers to dig un­der the skin of the na­tion.

“There’s a re­ally good un­der­belly of truth around the at­ti­tudes (Aus­tralians have),” says Mail­main. “It’s a mi­cro­cosm of a much big­ger whole.”

“He doesn’t set the bar low,” Wa­ters mar­vels, “he’s set him­self to put a lot of stuff in here. I think he’s touched on some things that need say­ing about Aus­tralia to­day, he re­ally has. And it’s nice to be able to say them in this way, with a touch of hu­mour.”


SEE THREE SUM­MERS opens to­mor­row


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