If, like me, you are a fan of the ABC show Ross Kemp Extreme World, the stage show Ross Kemp Extreme Tales is a must-see. For seventeen years, this documentary has been bringing human interest stories from conflict zones to our screens. The stage show presented an opportunity to learn more about the documentary presenter Ross Kemp and the filming of the confronting footage we witness in this hard-hitting series.
The series films all around the world, from Afghanistan to Papua New Guinea. The documentary makers invest the time to build trusting relationships with the interview subjects in-country, which results in honest, frank and often disturbing interviews. The stage show tells just a few of these tales, set against backgrounds of gang culture, human trafficking, racism, witchcraft, genocide, occupation and civil war.
Along with the screen clips, Ross re-enacts many of the scenes and we are reminded of the amazing acting abilities of this actor-turned documentary maker.
We learn that Ross developed his listening skills as a child, absorbing the conversations held in his mother’s hairdressing business. He presents as an extremely compassionate and empathetic person with a genuine desire to bring the plight of people in vulnerable situations to public attention. It is clearly an internal struggle for Ross and the dedicated production crew not to become personally involved in the tragic lives of those they briefly follow. For many of these people, there is no happy ending. Thanks to a hugely supportive production team and shared sense of humour in times of turmoil, Ross has handled the emotional burden, whilst not forgetting those he formed an attachment with.
Although individual assistance to the people who we see on camera cannot be provided, the documentary intends to provide an accurate portrayal of their daily struggles and highlight Government inattention where relevant. The protocols of documentary production are raised, especially in relation to factual accuracy and caution in not generating propaganda for extreme views.
In the audience question and answer session, Ross was asked why he continues to put himself in such danger. Clearly, there are huge risks associated with filming, and we learn that these risks are not limited to the filming, but also to travel, with several accidents having occurred. Ross and the crew are constantly travelling and eating local food; therefore, illness is inevitable. It’s definitely not an easy job.
Ross responds that this is his passion and he wishes to continue with this passion for as long as he can. In a world where many are ignorant of the conflict so widespread across the world, I am grateful for this documentary, which serves to rectify this underreporting in a balanced yet impactful manner.
The Ross Kemp Extreme Tales concluded its tour in Perth and Auckland. And for those with that burning question…will Ross return to EastEnders? The answer is never say never.
Celebrating five years living in Melbourne, Rachel is a fan of theatre, food, the outdoors and all things new and exciting.
Ross Kemp Extreme Tales toured Australia and New Zealand until Saturday 17 February 2018.