(Note: this synopsis and listing contains spoilers)

An end of the world film, in which a foursome meet up and wait for the end - Sam (Tyler Coppin), a young American sailor who jumps ship in Sydney, Sharon (Cassandra Delaney), an usherette at the Opera House, her friend Eva (Saskia Post), of Czechoslovakian origin concerned about her family in Europe and on the farm, and revved-up wagon-driving bogan Brendan (Jay Hackett), who's a cleaner at the Opera House (he's also relentlessly on the look out for sex, but is uncertain around women and inclined to silly theories about the sexes. He eventually reveals a more human and sensitive side).

The action starts when Brendan and another friend Tony (David Pledger) take a lunch break from their charity work as street Santas and try to chat up Sharon and Eva. They go out to see Midnight Oil concert (a full version of Short Memory), but then the women kick the men out of their flat.

Then Sharon goes to work at the Sydney Opera House, and after the show she's joined by Eva, and that's when they find deserter Sam lurking in the toilet. He takes them to his hiding place in a bio box where he eats candy to survive. Meanwhile Brendan turns up to do his job as a cleaner, and shows his style by singing into his vacuum cleaner nozzle.

After the mocking of Brendan is over, and as the news trickles in over the radio that a nuclear holocaust has been unleashed and the world is facing armageddon, the foursome decide to stay inside the Opera House. They begin to bond, and they all experience flashbacks - including Sam drifting back to his time with his girlfriend in New York and on leave in Paris, Sharon and Eva to school days memories, and Brendan to ballroom dancing and his absent mother.

Australia's American bases are nuked and another nuke is dropped south of Sydney at Jervis bay. To distract themselves from this grim news, the foursome get drunk, thanks to Brendan having a key to the bar, and play dress-ups and strip poker, and eventually Sharon and Brendan make love, while Sam comforts a distressed Eva.

As a sullen dark red sky torn by lightning and thunder hovers over Sydney, the foursome eventually end up in Martin Place railway station with others seeking shelter from the bleak world above.

At the end, Sharon and Eva sing a song to help entertain the crowd, and then the lights go out, and as Samm and others light matches, the foursome look up at the tunnel roof, wondering what's happening in the devastated world above …  

(For a more detailed synopsis, see the bottom of this site's 'about the movie').  

 

Writers:
Exec producers:
DOPs:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: Michael Edgley International, Hoyts Theatres present an Astra Film Production; tail credit copyrights film to Astra Film Productions Pty Ltd.; produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission

Budget: initially, $1 million (Cinema Papers' production survey, May-June 1984). It is likely the budget increased after the involvement of Michael Edgley and the cost of raising 10BA finance was included. It was also generous enough to allow some minor international filming, and Simon Wincer is quoted in an interview in the March-April 1984 Cinema Papers as putting the budget at $1.4 million.

Locations: Sydney, especially the Opera House, Seymour Centre, CBD and Martin Place subway station, New York and Paris.

Filmed: the film is listed as being in pre-production in the May-June 1983 Cinema Papers' production survey.

Australian distributor: Hoyts

Theatrical release: the film was previewed in Sydney at Hoyts centre on the weekend 24th-25th March 1984; it opened in Sydney at Hoyts on 5th April 1984, and in Melbourne at Hoyts the same week.

Video release: RCA-Columbia-Hoyts

Rating: M (March 1984, 2568m)

35mm  Kodak Eastmancolor 5247 and 5293 (these are listed as 3247 and 3293 in the Cinema Papers' production survey, but presumably these are typos, as 3247 was a Kodak Rapid Fixer solution. "5" was used to designate 35mm, "7" for 16mm).

Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres

Running time: 94 mins (Murray's Australia Film, Stratton's The Avocado Plantation

Australian VHS time: 1'29"48 (excluding video presentation credits)

US VHS time: 1'33"31 (excluding video presentation credit)

Box office:

The film failed to perform theatrically. According to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, it did only $111,978 in business, equivalent in A$ 2009 to $284,424.

It did get a release on VHS in the United States, and in Japan, and in some European territories, but it didn't do theatrical business elsewhere.

Opinion

Awards

One Night Stand was entered in the 1984 AFI Awards but came away with only one nomination:

Nominated, Best Achievement in Costume Design (Ross Major) (Jan Hurley won for Silver City)

It did also get into a few festivals - it was screened, for example at the August 1984 Montreal World Film Festival in a special section designed to highlight the growing strength of the Australian film industry. Other films in the special section included The Settlement, Strikebound and Goodbye Paradise. But generally the film faced a muted critical response. 

Availability

The film was released in the United States on VHS, and copies circulate amongst collectors from this source, quality contingent on the original material used.

The Australian VHS tape release is much rarer, suggesting it didn't do much by way of sales in its day.

Ultimately, however, no matter how much you cut it, no film looks good on the very hazy system, and what this film needs is a digital release, to highlight the colourful sets and costumes, and the special effects of Sydney under a nuclear pall.

At the time this report was prepared, there was talk of the film being released by Umbrella on DVD - the company did an excellent job on Duigan's teen angst film Mouth to Mouth, and One Night Stand was listed in their catalogue here, but without any details of a release date or other key matters, such as pricing. 

Umbrella hasn't let Ozmovies know any of these details, but here's hoping they're beavering away getting the release into shape.

While the film is awkward and uneven as a drama, it does tap into the world, the zeitgeist of the nuclear 1980s in Australia, and purely on the level of anthropological study and political nostalgia, it rewards a viewing.

Look, there's Peter Garrett performing with Midnight Oil, didn't he turn into a politician with a short memory, and look there's Richard Morecroft reading the news on the ABC about the world coming to an end, and look there's Helen Pankhurst, and look there's Cassandra Delaney - didn't she do Fair Game and marry John Denver? - and look there's footage of an anti-nuke protest marching down Martin Place, and so on and so forth. If you remember the protest times and the paranoias, this is a guaranteed nostalgia hit, as strong as the sugar from a stick of fairy floss.

1. Source:

Writer/director John Duigan began his career in the politically activist/leftist leaning circles of the APG and the Pram Factory, though an early work like Dimboola, a rustic comedy about a wedding reception Australian-style might not seem like much of an evocation of activist tendencies.

But Dugian also graduated from Melbourne University with a Masters degree in philosophy, and his films tended to look at social issues - for example, Winter of Our Dreams examined the malaise of middle class leftists confronted by a junkie, while Mouth to Mouth looked at street kids, and Far East looked at the morality of Australians caught up in the politics of an Asian dictatorship. Duigan also directed some of the mini-series Vietnam for Kennedy Miller.

It was almost inevitable that he would turn his attention to another hot button issue of the 1980s, the anti-nuclear movement - the one oddity being that somehow he persuaded the Hoyts-Edgley partnership that this should be their first 10BA picture .

Edgley was more comfortable with shows such as The Man from Snowy River and Phar Lap, and Hoyts-Edgley usually pursued the big budget angle until the partnership experienced a couple of big budget flops with The Coolangatta Gold and Burke & Wills, and gave the game away.

It turned out that Simon Wincer (who had worked on Snowy River and Phar Lap and then began to work on the Michale Edgley side of the Edgley-Hoyts venture selecting projects) was the conduit, as he explained in the March-April 1984 edition of Cinema Papers:

What we are finding now, particularly with the Hoyts-Edgley venture, is that people come to us with projects that are already at a first- or second-draft stage and often it is a matter of deciding what to go with. That was the case with John Duigan's One Night Stand. Since then, I had a bit of input with John on the script, which I enjoyed immensely. But basically the development of the project was left to Dick Mason (producer) and John.

David Stratton in his survey of the 10BA years, the 1990 The Avocado Plantation noted the oddity of this uncharacteristic project:

'The film was a study of the naivete of our perceptions of the threat of nuclear war,' says Dugian. 'It was quite a subtle and elusive subject for a mainstream film.' The film was made not long after American films on the same subject (The Day After, Testament) had raised the question of nuclear war all over again, but Duigan emphasises the banality of the end of the world, and takes the point of view of four young people, three Australians and one American sailor, setting almost the entire film within the Sydney Opera House on a fateful New Year's Eve.

2. Production:

The film boasts in its tail credits as having been shot in New York and Paris as well as Sydney, but in reality, the international shoot occupies very little screen time and could easily have been done by a second unit - the shots are mainly designed to break up the interior theatrical action with flashbacks, and feature the American character, deserter sailor Sam, romping with girlfriends in Paris and New York.

Similarly the film makes great play of having been filmed in the Opera House, but because of cost, some of the filming in theatre was done at the Seymour Centre, the performing arts centre of the University of Sydney in Chippendale - the colour and style of the seating is noticeably different in the film to that of the main and smaller venues at the Opera House.

David Stratton recorded director John Duigan talking about the shoot in his book The Avocado Plantation:

'We wanted to film all of it in the Opera House, but it was too expensive, so we shot about ten days there and the rest in the Seymour Centre.' But the film is not all interiors: there is some marvellous photography by Tom Cowan) early in the film of a Sydney street that looks more like a set than a real street. 'I wanted to match the flimsiness and artificiality of the theatrical world inside the Opera House with the flimsiness of the real world,' explains Duigan. 'We found a location where we could film a corner building in such a way as to make it look like a threate set.'

During the long night, the quartet spend some time watching Fritz Lang's Metropolis: 'Images of Armageddon of a different kind,' says Duigan. 'And another level of artificiality. Images of buildings tumbling down and water welling up from below. All part of the sense of dislocation and surreality. I also had them play Strip Jack Naked wearing costumes they'd found from a production of Alice in Wonderland.'

Costume designer Ross Major picked up the film's only AFI nomination for his work, and the print of Metropolis came from the National Library of Australia, back when it still had a film library lending service.

Simon Wincer had high hopes for the film prior to its release, as he explained in an interview in the March-April 1984 edition of Cinema Papers:

I am very fond of One Night Stand. It is an extraordinary little film, with an enormous impact. It is a very clever concept and looks at the most important issues in the world in a relevant and entertaining way.

It certainly has a chilling effect. We have really high hopes for it.

The amount of money that it cost, $1.4 million, is very little these days. But the production values are extraordinary. There are scenes shot in Paris and New York, with demonstration scenes in Sydney involving 20,000 people.

John Duigan is a highly talented filmmaker and a brilliant writer. It has been an utter joy working with him because his approach to film-making is very different to mine, and that has been a real learning process for me.

John is very adventurous, particularly in the post-production where this film really grew. It was quite extraordinary because every time we looked at a new cut it was entirely different. John and John Scott, the editor, played around for a couple of months finalizing the thing. It is constructed in an unusual way: it is quite surreal in places, yet it all ties together in the end.

Despite the cheating of the Seymour for the Opera House, the film does feature plenty of footage of the exterior and interior of the Opera House, a relatively rare achievement in Australian films, as the Opera House later began to guard its image more closely and make access more difficult. 

Familiar sights such as John Olsen's Salute to Five Bells, begun in 1971 and installed in the upper foyer, are featured - a video clip on the creation of that work can be found at the NFSA here (it's available for download).

The film also plays relatively fair with Sydney's geography, and provides a number of familiar sights, such as Martin Place subway station, the RAN at Woolloomooloo, and various landmarks saturated with an ominous red glow from a doom-laden sky.

3. Release:

Sadly the marketing expertise pumped up by Simon Wincer in relation to Michael Edgley International failed to work with the film domestically and internationally.

The film failed to perform theatrically. According to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, it did only $111,978 in business, equivalent in A$ 2009 to $284,424.

It did get a release on VHS in the United States, and in Japan, and in some European territories, but it didn't do theatrical business elsewhere.

Duigan discussed this failure with David Stratton for his book The Avocado Plantation:

One Night Stand was not a success. 'It was completely misunderstood,' says Duigan. 'I was told it was grossly immoral to ridicule an issue as important as nuclear war. The film never found an audience, so obviously I failed in that respect. I think the expressionistic devices I used, plus the heightened, slightly theatrical acting style I wanted, puzzled and even annoyed people. I wanted the characters to become disjointed and even ludicrous, such as the scene in which they walk out carrying umbrellas to keep the fall-out off their heads. Audiences today are so conditioned by certain narrative forms that they don't want a mix of social realism and satire. I made a conscious attempt to try to give a different kind of challenge to audiences, and I know the film became a cult in some places, but generally people didn't respond. I saw it again recently, and parts of it are quite sluggish, especially near the start. But there are images I like, such as the lone wind-surfer on the Harbour.'

4. The age of atomic fear:

In later times, climate science came to represent the main international fear of the day, and for some it will be hard to remember the nuclear panic that bubbled to the surface regularly during the cold war.

The tension was compounded in Australia by the presence of American bases, which, though secret, were known to play a key part in the American nuclear deterrence system.

Australian feature films regularly turned to the issue of nuclear politics and that's one of the reasons why One Night Stand continues to exert a compelling sociological interest. It might not be great drama, but it takes up the sort of themes that first surfaced in the American cinema with films such as the 1964 Fail Safe and Dr Strangelove.

It is in its own way a stab at a science fiction projection into the near future, using, as director Duigan noted, expressionistic devices, heightened theatricality and eccentric satirical flourishes.

Its various tags featured in the apocalyptic imagery of the posters: "As nuclear war breaks out - They've got one night to live the rest of their lives", and "A world gone mad … making time when time is running out!". 

It joined a number of other Australian films which took this path. The grand daddy of them was Giorgio Mangiamele's low budget 1970 apocalyptic outing Beyond Reason, but the 1980s saw a flourishing - for example, the 1980 nuclear thriller The Chain Reaction and the 1987 Ground Zero, while the protest featured at the start of the film would turn up in politically activist features like The Pursuit of Happiness, protesting against American ships in Perth.

At the time that One Night Stand was announced, the production survey in Cinema Papers, May-June 1983 also listed The Nostradamus Kid as being in pre-production, with Paul Cox directing from a Bob Ellis script.

This autobiographical work was centred around Ellis dragging his girlfriend up to the Blue Mountains to escape the holocaust which was about to erupt and destroy the world as a result of the Cuban missile crisis.

This flm wouldn't go before the cameras until 1990, with Ellis directing, but it had the tag "A gentle romantic comedy about the end of the world". Because of its delay in production, it became a kind of coda to the 1980s nuke age in Australian feature films.

The photo gallery to this site has a scan of a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, 8th April 1984, exactly at the time of One Night Stand's Sydney release.

The story conjures up the mood of the time, and artists on the march (though ironically the story is listed in Excursions and carries the header If the audience was bombed …). 

Anybody who was anybody in the anti-nuke movement gets a mention, including the director and cast of the film, and the likes of Midnight Oil, who turn up performing live in One Night Stand:

It's no good being a star, if all the audience are dead.

So, no doubt, reason the many musicians and actors who are marching for nuclear disarmament this Sunday in the Palm Sunday rally - the major event of the anti-nuclear calender.

Organisers expect 60 to 80,000 to march this year, reflecting a steady growth in the anti-unclear cause. In 1982 40,000 marched in Sydney, and 100,000 nationally; last year this grew to 60,000 in Sydney and almost 200,000 nationally.

Among those expected to march in Sydney this year will be a team from television's A Country Practice - Grand Dodwell, Anne Stehlow and Anne Tenney. The three will be flying into Sydney on the morning of the march, after helping at a fund-raising for Adelaide's Children's Hospital.

Members of local bands like Redgum, the Allniters and the Hoodoo Gurus will be marching, while the fabulous Delltones and the Electric Pandas will provide music after the march. Peter Garret from Midnight Oil will send a telegram to be read from Los Angeles where he is recording a new album.

Also performing at the concert will be Peter Campbell, Margaret RoadKnight (sic) and Judy Small. The guest speaker is expatriate Australian Dr Helen Caldicott, emeritus president of the International Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Star spotters can also keep an eye out for actors Helen Morse, Graham Blundell and Rebecca Gilling; writers Patrick White, David Williamson and Anne Brooksbank; and film directors Phil Noyce, Esben Storm and John Duigan (who will march with cast members from his new anti-nuclear film One Night Stand). Before the rally, a church service will be held in the south-west corner of Hyde Park, with speeches from Rollie Bush, the head of the Uniting Church in Australia, and Peter Jones from the Quakers. This year's rally is being held on Palm Sunday as a mark of the significance of church groups in the movement for world peace.

The march will begin at 1pm at Hyde Park South with the realease (sic) of over 1,000 helium balloons. The march will go through Liverpool, George and King Streets to the Domain, where there will be music and speeches.

There couldn't be a much better way to tap into the 1980s zeitgeist of this march than to watch One Night Stand, for all its problems as a drama.

It's also worth noting that a similar sort of riff involving young people was later used in Michael Pattinson's 1992 feature Secrets, though in this case the plot featured five young Australian Beatles' fans who get locked in the basement of the hotel where the band is staying, and then share their deepest secrets with each other (a more than passing resemblance to The Breakfast Club has also been noted). Danii Minogue and Noah Taylor starred in that outing, and it had much the same commercial success as One Night Stand.

5. Music:

The music for the film is determindely eclectic. There's the Blacktown RSL pipe band's bagpipes, pianist Michael Kelly performing Satie, a dash of Wagner, a whiff of Strauss for the ballroom dancers, the Easybeats doing Friday on My Mind for a screening of Lang's Metropolis, Gerswhin's An American in Paris, Michael Dudman performing the 94th Psalm, and at the climax, down in the Martin Place subway, Frankie Raymond performing the blues - Duigan had first featured Raymond, a trouper of the old school in his comedy Dimboola. Raymond had at one time performed at the Pram Factory, which is presumably where Duigan came across her, and he clearly stayed loyal to her by offering this little cameo. 

The film features the Goffin/King hit It Might As Well Rain Until September, which turns up over the head credits after we hear ominous synth chords and a chanting crowd.

It's sung by cast member Cassandra Delaney, and the song returns at the end of the film, when it's defiantly sung by heroines Delaney and Saskia Post in the Martin Place subway.

The lyrics for the version that runs over the head credits vary a little from the usually published form:

What did (shall) I write?

What can I say?

How can I tell you how much I miss you?

The weather here has been as nice as it can be

Although it doesn't really matter much to me

For all the fun I'll have while you're so far away

It might as well rain until September

I don't need sunny skies for thing I like to do

'Cause I stay home the whole day long and think of you

As far as I'm concerned each day's a rainy day

So it might as well rain until September

My friends look forward to their picnics on the beach

Yes everybody loves the summertime

All that (But) you know darling while your arms are out of reach

The summer isn't any friend of mine

It doesn't matter whether skies are grey or blue

It's raining in my heart, ('cause) I can't be with you

I'm only living for the day you're home to stay

So it might as well rain until September

September, September …

Oh, it might as well rain until September ...

Not long afterwards, a short way into the drama, Midnight Oil, with lead singer Peter Garrett, do a live performance of their song Short Memory, recorded by 2JJJ at a performance in Sydney on 18th September 1983.

Conquistador of Mexico

The Zulu and the Navaho

The Belgians in the Congo

Short memory

Plantation in Virginia

The Raj in British India

The deadline in South Africa

Short memory

The story of El Salvador

The silence of Hiroshima

Destruction of Cambodia

Short memory

Short memory, must have a… shoooort memory

Short memory, must have … shoooort memory

The sight of hotels by the Nile

The designated Hilton style

With running water specially bought

Short memory

A smallish man Afghanistan

A watch dog in a nervous land

They're only there to lend a hand

Short memory

The friendly five a dusty smile

Wake up in a sweat at dead of night

And in the tents new rifles, hey, short memory

Short memory

Short memory, must have a… shoooort memory

Short memory, must have a… shoooort memory

Yes, short memory, must have a … shoort memory

(The band repeats the chorus and invites the audience into a short singalong).

For more details on the film's music, see this site's pdf of music credits.

6. Detailed Synopsis:

After shots of allegedly American warships (some supplied by the RAN), and anti-nuclear, anti-American demonstrations in Sydney's CBD to the sounds of "It Might as Well Rain Until September", we meet two Santas ( Jay Hackett as Brendan, David Pledger as Tony) doing charity collecting in the Rocks.

They spot two likely young women (Cassandra Delaney as Sharon, Saskia Post as Eva), call lunch break, and set off in pursuit, which takes them past the Opera House into the Botanic Gardens.

The women are reading 'dalliance' ads in the newspaper, and when they take a seat, the Santas pounce, introduce themselves and propose a date. Initially the women refuse - Eva says they might be creatures from the black lagoon.

Brendan claims to have sung at the Opera House, but Sharon says she hasn't seen him, and she works there as an usherette.

The chit-chat is interrupted by protestors chanting "US bases out now" at a navy ship docked in Woolloomooloo Bay (the geography's a bit sketchy) - "What are they carrying on about now?", asks Sharon, and Brendan says he doesn't know.

One of the American sailors, Sam (Tyler Coppin) stirs the chanting mob by waving at them.

Sharon and Eva next turn up at Bondi beach, still discussing the charms of the Santas, and then they head off with the boys to a Midnight Oil gig, to see Peter Garrett and Co. perform the song "Short Memory". Sam is conspicuous in the audience in his sailor's hat.

After the show, Brendan takes Sharon down harborside in his hotted up 'wagon, and they kiss, but proceedings are interrupted by an oil tanker's horn, and Sharon asks to be taken home.

On the TV, an ABC newsreader (Richard Morecroft) reports that a crisis in central America is taking the world close to oblivion, but the foursome switch over to listen to the lotto results. The women dive off into the bedroom and Eva reports that Tony is a real groper, while in the living room Brendan's boasting how Sharon cried out in bliss, kicked the handbrake and they almost went into the harbour.

Tony reports he didn't do that well with Eva, and then the lurking girls emerge to tell the boys they're exhausted and they're going to have to let them go - but "thanks for a wonderful night" says a sardonic Eva.

Tony asks for a drink, Brendan suggests a drink in the Cross, but it's game over. As Tony drives off in his hotted wagons, Sharon resolves "no more blind dates", while Brendan stays out in the street, having a vision of ballroom dancers in a warehouse loft.

Then he drives away in his hotted 'wagon, while on the TV a commentator talks gloomily of a button being pushed and Armageddon, before wishing viewers a good Christmas. An ironic carol, 'Come all ye faithful', follows…

Tony parks down on the harbour, listening to the drunks on a ferry party celebrate Christmas, then wakes in the morning to discover his vehicle is being towed away.

Then it's the New Year, welcomed in by a Scottish pipe band marching along the harbour foreshore, playing the traditional Skye Boat Song, "Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing", while over at the Opera House Sharon is working as an usherette and Eva turns up to report they missed out on lotto.

A sleeping American patron distracts Sharon while Eva reads the Sydney Times' paper carrying the bold headline "Eve of Disaster". The patron heads off to the gents, while Sharon finds a report in the paper headed "American Sailor Still Missing".

Sharon shouts through the door that it's time to go home, and she knows who he is, and she's not going to report him, she wouldn't want to be in the American navy either, and Sam shouts back, asking if she's sure she's not going to call the cops. Sam emerges, saying he could be a maniac. "Yeah sure, you've got a chainsaw shoved up your T-shirt," retorts Sharon.

She says they can't just leave him there, but Sam says he's been hiding for three days. He asks them to come with him, to fool the security guard, and he explains how he fills in the time listening to the radio and the stage shows, learning one really well. He puts on the "Blow winds and crack your cheeks" lines from King Lear, Act III, scene II, backed by a bunch of extras in stage gear who turn up out of nowhere, and then head off looking for a theatre.

Sam takes the two women down on to an empty stage dressed with a colourful set and a human-sized toy soldier, and then confesses he's jumped ship because he's a pacifist and a war's about to start, which is news to the women. The stage bio box is Sam's home sweet home, and he shows off his music box with dancing ballerina.

He's living on candy - Mars bars for breakfast, Cherry Ripes for lunch, Violet Crumbles for dinner, and Wagon Wheels for desert - the dentists will love him, says Eva - but he says he can get ten years in prison for cowardice in the face of the enemy, so he's got to stay in hiding until his beard starts to grow. "You could be here for awhile," says Sharon, but Eva reassures him that less facial hair means he's further up the evolutionary ladder.

Just then a whistling announces the arrival of Brendan on stage with vacuum cleaner, and he goes into a number announcing "Here's Brendan" by way of the vacuum cleaner's nozzle. 

The girls laugh at his routine and flat singing ("lady giving head … I got the secret to love" runs the lyrics, and the girls press buttons, bringing on some Wagner (Rite of the Valkyries), and special effects which set the toy soldier moving, and produce a change of back drop featuring aeroplanes in a spider's web.

Brendan freaks, then realises there's someone in the bio box. Sharon gives him six out of ten for his presentation, Eva settles for five and a half. "Very funny," says Brendan, and when he threatens to call the security guard, Sharon and Eva leave Sam to head down to placate him.

On stage, Brendan mellows and offers them a bite of a cheese and beetroot sandwich and a drink from a bar for which he's got the key.

Sam interrupts by shouting that it's started, it's on, as the radio announcer says it's war, with NATO and Warsaw Pact forces locked in battle on the East and West German borders, but hopes are high it can be confined to the central European theatre. Sam reassures them Australia's not of strategic significance, and Brendan seizes the moment to chivvy him about the chocolate wrappers left on the stage every night.

The announcer tells everyone in Sydney they should stay in their houses, and there'll be an address the next few minutes from the PM, because "a short time ago nuclear devices struck an unspecified target south of Sydney and the US base at north west Cape."

The foursome react gloomily and Brendan says they'll have to stay inside for fear of fall out, and then Brendan tells Sam that they've got to help the women get through it and stay solid, but Sam seems a little nervous.

The women race to get to a phone so Eva can call home, but the pipers are calling Glasgow and the office is full of cast on the phone and when they find a free phone it's making a buzzing noise, as sirens sound and a voice tells everyone in the Opera House that it's not a drill and everyone should report to the Green room. But Sam and Brendan decide to stay there on the stage and stay solid, as Sam goes into flashback with his US girlfriend (Monica McDonald) having a picnic looking over New York's upper bay.

Back on stage, Sharon works out there's only an hour to midnight and Eva says "What a way to start the New Year."

She'll be right, she'll be apples, say the girls, while Tony goes into a flashback remembering his guitar being crunched in a clamp bar by a bully (Tom Appleton) who tells him it'll save the world from his singing and he's weak as piss.

Back on stage, Sam broods about a kid in outer space doing a school project on humans and being forced to conclude "we're all crazy", before the girls arrive in new clothes as a way of cheering up the boys.

To fill in the time, Sam pulls out a pack of over-sized cards, but Brendan says the only game he knows is strip poker. "Typical," says Eva, and the conversation turns to radiation and its effects and star signs, and then there's a low rumbling and a storm.

"Make the most of your opportunities, they may not come again," reads Eva, while her own sign says "Today's a particularly bad day for travel, watch out." Sam's a Virgo, and his says he puts off to tomorrow what he could do today, but tomorrow might be too late. Brendan's a Capricorn and his says an opportunity will come his way to meet a strange man.

Sharon turns to reading palms and finding Brendan's lifeline, and then the conversation turns to reincarnation, with Brendan thinking he might end up a cockroach, but Sam thinks that's good, because the 'roaches and scorpions do well with radiation.

They switch on the radio to hear that the strike on Australia that struck south of Jervis Bay might only be a precautionary measure by the super powers, and Sam flashes back to his ice skating American girlfriend.

Eva remembers her grandparents in Czechoslovakia, and Brendan tries to distract them by going to get the key to the bar, mixing up his special cocktail ("tastes like raw egg and sump oil", says Sharon, while Brendan says all they need now is some Spanish fly, which causes Sharon to go into a high school flashback of teasing girls).

Sharon reckons Brendan's the sort who'd write dirty poems in the school toilet because he's got shifty eyes, and he confesses at the age of seven to writing "Little Tommy tittlearse was crawling through the long grass, came across a circarse, lifted up the canvarse, saw a lady's bare arse, jabbed it with a comparse, wasn't that ridicularse of little Tommy tittlearse".

"Oh that's pathetic, ours were far more classy," sniffs Sharon: "Old King Cole had a forty foot pole, and he showed it to the lady next door, she thought it was a snake, and hit it with the rake, and now it's only two foot four. So watch it mate!"

"God, women are cruel," says Sam.

"Well men have got one track minds," says Eva.

"It's just the way we're built," says Brendan. "When I see a woman in a low cut dress I actually feel physical pain."

Sharon says they sound like a pair of desperates, and Sam explains it's just a thin veneer of civilisation that's holding them back. "We've all got an animal self somewhere," says Brendan, who's much given to theorising about men and women.

Eva says it's all just different pipes, or at least that's what Miss McCreadie used to say at school and we flashback to the teacher (Jennifer Mellet) demonstrating the different plumbing on a plastic human model, until she spots its erect penis and the class laughs.

More talk of Spanish fly, featuring a couple doing it until they died, and it's two minutes to midnight, and they decide to go out the front of the Opera House, carrying some umbrellas to shelter from the radiation.  

The sky over Sydney is a sullen red, and the city is quiet. They turn on the radio to hear of fragments of news coming from Europe, the United States and Australia, with the announcer saying he feels a sense of powerlessness and disbelief as the final seconds of the old year tick away, urging a few private words of prayer so that the new year might bring peace and an end to the madness of war.

The city stays silent, Sam says they should go back inside, and Eva spots a rabbit on the steps.

As a solitary wind surfer rides the harbour and forlorn bagpipes play on the soundtrack, the foursome return to a smaller stage. Brendan heads up to the bio box, and cranks up some music, the Easybeats' Friday on My Mind ("gonna have fun in the city"). He turns on a projector which cranks out Fritz Lang's silent sci fi movie Metropolis, and Sam and Sharon and Eva dance on the stage, before settling down to watch the show.

As the song finishes, Brendan races down to say someone's coming, and they race to hide, but the security guards aren't interested, and on the news there's grievous casualties in German and nuclear devices have struck Nurrungar, Pine Gap and north west Cape, as well as the fourth device htting south of Sydney.

In the main Opera House stage, an organist pounds away at the pipes, as the circular sound baffles rise into the ceiling. 

Back on the stage, Sam looks at a photo of Eva's family - they look nice - as she swigs on a bottle of champagne. She fills in a bit of her back story, and we flashback to school and the class laughing at her accent, and one girl pinning up the back of her dress to show off her panties to the pointing, laughing horde.

Sharon saves her, and then it's back to the stage and Brendan arriving with more drinks, and a now drunk Sharon saying if Brendan wants to play strip poker, let's play strip poker. (You see, says Brendan, men and women are after the same thing, but women can't let on, "because otherwise it destroys their mystique").

Sam congratulates him for being very perceptive about women, while the girls race off to dress up in Alice in Wonderland costumes, with layers of clothing to take off.

Outside thunder erupts, and Sharon says "if we are going to snuff it, I wish I'd have been overseas, that's one thing I really wish." Brendan says he's been to Hayman Island and Tasmania, and that's over the sea, as the girls laugh. 

Eva says she wants to be in Paris, cueing Sam remembering being there on a shore visit, to the sounds of Gershwin's An American in Paris, and meeting some French sailors and getting drunk and meeting a blonde girl (Magdalena Granath). 

The foursome return to playing cards, as they speculate about the fate of the Royals and the lights go out as planes roar overhead and the radio shouts they must use essential lighting only. "God this is getting spooky," says Sharon.

Eva has another drink, saying she knows when she's had enough, cueing a flashback to drinking with Sharon on a beach, and then to Sharon's ex-boyfriend (Ian Gilmour) breaking up with her.

Back on stage, it's Eva's turn to remove some clothes, while a sleepy Sam starts to talk about people giving off rays in places like the Opera House and churches and public venues. Eva gets down to bra and panties, asking Brendan if he's never seen a girl on a beach before, and telling a joke "What did the bra say to the hat? You go on ahead and I'll give these two a lift."

Brendan laughs, but Sharon says she doesn't want to play anymore. There's a war going on and all they can do is play strip poker and it's pathetic. Eva says she doesn't want to play either, and Sam wonders what it's like to be dead.

Brendan says he thought Eva believed in God, cueing a flashback to a coffin in a church and a psalm, and then Sam remembers the first time he knew someone died, no one found him for a month, and that's where a young Sam found his ballerina music box.

Back on stage, Eva is laughing at Brendan's underpants with decorative ants and Sharon returns, saying they should finish the game of strip poker.

Brendan loses and drops his underpants - "nothing to be ashamed of" - as Sharon howls, and everybody sniggers. "Don't ring me, I'll ring you," says an embarrassed Brendan.

After Brendan delivers more insights into women, and Sam suggests one sex might be better, Brendan gets dressed and Sam wanders off to hear a pianist on the main stage playing Satie's Gymnopaedie No. 1 on the piano.

The Sydney skyline continues red and sullen as Brendan discovers Sharon in the wardrobe room, and he tells her things aren't sounding too good, and they bond, and she gives him a kiss, and then things turn more passionate. Sharon says she's scared and then says they should make the most of it, in case, while Eva and Sam are on stage fooling around with the mechanical toy soldier. 

Sam asks Eva to say something in Czechoslovakian, and she says "I hope all this with the war is just a dream," as the toy soldier falls off the stage, and as Eva burps we go into a flashback with Sam and his girlfriend having a meal with his mum, who burps from indigestion, and breaks the tension around the table.

Back in the theatre, Sam and Eva cuddle, while Sharon is getting dressed in the wardrobe room, having done it with Brendan, who says her back is a beautiful tapestry. Sharon says she might get to like him, even without a war.

Eva tries the phone, but still gets a dial out tone, so she turns on the television, and the female newsreader (Helen Pankhurst) brings even more bad news about England, France and Europe, and fragments of footage of devastation from somewhere north of New York which go from the TV into full screen, with ominous synth music.

Ominous lightning and thunder are in the dark red sky outside the Opera House, and alarms sound, as Sam comes across a tearful Eva, and Sharon tells Brendan not to tell the others what it looks like outside.

They try to lighten the mood by doing a dance on the stage, as Sam comforts Eva, but Sam shouts at them to stop, and Eva reveals what she saw on the TV in the office - the people, and how you couldn't tell they were people anymore, they were so badly burned, and the screaming, everyone screaming.

She didn't want to tell them. Brendan says it's not going to happen here, and Eva suggests they pray, but Brendan says it didn't help the people she saw on the television.

Then a voice on the in house system says word's come through, and everyone's to move to the nearest underground railway station as soon as possible, with the panicking crowd flowing like the panicking extras shown in Metropolis.

The foursome race up to Martin Place, as Midnight Oil returns on the soundtrack with Short Memory, and down on the platform Frankie Raymond sings the blues, and Sharon says "I don't know what you're supposed to do in life, but whatever it is, I don't reckon I've done it", and Brendan says "Me neither", and Sam gets out his music box, and Brendan remembers the ballroom dancers dancing to a waltz - his mother was a ballroom dancer, he confesses to Sharon, and he was taken along when he was tiny, but he doesn't even know what happened to her - and Sharon remembers drunkenly frolicking with Eva on the beach, and Eva says she's okay, and Sam makes his ballerina dance like his girlfriend did on the ice, and Frankie Raymond's still singing the blues - and a Salvation Army Officer (Lois Ramsey) says 'let's hear it for Frankie' and asks if there's another musician in the subway, and Brendan gets Sharon and Eva to stand up, and they sing It Might As Well Rain Until September, and persist until the lights go out, and a rumbling and an eerie wind sets the crowd in the subway shrieking and screaming, and they start again with the song, as Sam lights a match and the foursome look nervously up at the roof above, and the image freezes and silence descends … except for the eerie wind, and then voices returning to sing All We Are Saying is Give Peace a Chance and Stand up for Your Rights and We Shall Overcome and live in peace some day, as credits roll …