‘A Journey of a Thousand Smiles’ is a theatrical story of a high school teacher who walks from Melbourne to Canberra to deliver a petition to Parliament. You might pause briefly and then look for some other show with more plot. Or drama. Fair enough, but you’d make a mistake.
Just come and meet Jessica Hackett: actor, writer, teacher and all-round awesome person. And realise like me that she actually did it. Backpack, hat, boots and a bird-spotting book. Swanston Street to Parliament in 35 days.
Frustrated with the almost hopeless plight of asylum seeks in Australia, of brutality winning over compassion, she set off on her own mission to deliver a 17,000 signature petition to government last February. A year later, she brings her sparkling charisma in a true account of her journey.
Jess wears her heart on her sleeve, and the rare passion that fuels someone to act so selflessly as she did, translates to a performance that could not be more genuine.
Jess uses song, photos and video to highlight some of the difficulties and surprises of her month-long trek. She takes us by the hand, and on stage, roleplay some of the strangers she met and offered shelter. She balances light-hearted anecdotes with true audio testimonials of refugees, gut-wrenching stories that keep her journey in perspective.
Jess confesses that she often faced doubt and discouragement. Feeling like a silly girl wanting to be a hero, but given the daunting challenges faced by those she represents, afraid she would let us all down. Her eyes grow misty as she shares her fears, but also the boundless generosity of the strangers that offered her shelter and encouragement.
Ultimately, though, this is a story grounded on optimism. Told with charm, humor and joy. My plus one left inspired to get out and walk. And delighted to have met Jess and share her story.
Christian G. is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of 5pound Theatre.
Image credit: 5pound Theatre.