Around the Pacific, the theatre group Won Smolbag and their TV production Love Patrol are a well-known part of the region’s cultural life.
This week the 12,000 delegates at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne were able to look some of the episodes and meet the actors and writers who bring it to the screen.
One of the stars is Gillio ‘Gigi’ Baxter who has played the lead character Andy since season three in 2009.
Andy is gay and Baxter says she draws on her personal experience to play the role.
She says Love Patrol addresses a raft of issues that resonate across the Pacific from government corruption and problems within the Church to unemployment and youth issues.
“[There is also] our traditional cultural beliefs in regards to HIV/AIDS and stigma and discrimination against people with HIV also the gay and transgender community,” she said.
Scriptwriter Jo Dorass says the show started in 2006 with the first series and then after a year’s break, it was commissioned again with the eighth series shooting this year.
“We hear that is goes over very well and it’s used in PNG [and] Fiji in various projects, as well as screening on TV throughout the Pacific as far a Guam and also on NITV (National Indigenous Television) in Australia,” she said.
Gillio Baxter says the show involves a lot of hard work on the film set.
“But at the end of the day it’s a good thing – at least we get to voice our issues across the Pacific,” she said.
Vanuatu’s Wan Smol Bag Theatre is the production company behind the series with support from Australia’s foreign aid program AusAID, now DFAT.
Jo Dorass says the future of the show is dependent on funding and with cuts to Australia’s international aid budget, it is not guaranteed beyond this year.
But, she says even if international funding is cancelled, the production team will still carry on filming the show locally.
MELBOURNE, (RADIO AUSTRALIA)