Summer Heights High: articles

Chris Lilley

Chris Lilley's drama teacher Mr G will provoke mixed reactions among viewers with his drug and death themes.

High school confrontational

It takes less than a minute on the set of Summer Heights High to know that once again Chris Lilley has hit the mark with what is going to be a hilarious new comedy and that, once again, he's going to be controversial.

Standing in the gym of a real suburban high school and surrounded by teenage dancers and singers waving giant cardboard syringes and ecstacy pills Lilley, as his flamboyant creation Mr G, is directing a school musical about drugs, death and kids.

Yes, a musical and, yes, about drugs and kids.

Clearly Lilley, the 32-year-old comic who arrived on television with Channel Seven's Big Bite and then broke out on his own with the ABC's comedy series We Can Be Heroes, has been let off the leash.

"Yeah, it's pretty full on this one," Lilley said.

"But I like this kind of comedy, I like stuff that pushes the boundaries a bit and is challenging and something new and goes places other stuff hasn't gone before.

"And it's not intended to be offensive, it's about the characters."

And in Summer Heights High, those characters are impossible to ignore.

At the centre of it all is Lilley's flamboyant drama teacher creation Mr G.

When the usual Summer Heights school drama coach is taken ill after a student dies of a drug overdose, Mr G steps in and turns her planned production into his drug-themed eisteddfod.

Thrown into the mix are Jai'me, the "poor little rich girl" transferred to Summer Heights from a private school to experience a life less privileged (also played by Lilley) and Jonah, a student of Islander heritage with a foul mouth (Lilley again), a troupe of handicapped actors playing Mr G's "special students" and stereotyped parents and teachers.

The result is undoubtedly hilarious, the type of anarchic comedy Australia audiences had only ever seen in imports such as South Park or Little Britain.

And like the imports, it's bound to send viewers apoplectic with laughter and indignation in almost equal numbers.

But to paraphrase Jonah when he is caught bullying another student, it's all good fun, some people might just not get that it's fun.

"I think as soon as people see the context of the issues and realise how ridiculous it would be to take them out of context, they'll understand," Lilley said.

"[The comedy] had to be a step on from the previous show . . . I can't just keep churning out the same type of thing and I thought a school is the perfect environment for that, the perfect set up for the jokes."

"And I think people will get the jokes."

By Scott Ellis
September 3, 2007
Sydney Morning Herald