Friday, 4 October 2013

Rupert, Melbourne Theatre Company

Murdoch is, there's no doubt, an Australian icon. He's been a major media player in this country for around half a century, he's been spreading his wings internationally for 45 years, and has significant influence on how pretty much any major media story is reported in this country. And nobody's ever written a play directly about him (the closest you get is probably David Hare and Howard Brenton's "Pravda", which specifically concentrated on the period of his life where his UK purchases were expanding, and disguised him as a South African). Until now.

Williamson's play makes the choice to tell pretty much the entire story of Murdoch's adult life, from the perspective of an older Rupert, without apologies. It's inevitably somewhat bit-ish (then he bought this, then he bought that, then he did this business deal, then he met this politician...) but the story flows pretty well (although after the Packers midway through act one, there really aren't any other decent individual antagonists for Rupert to play against - it also helps that the Packers are delightfully caricatured in writing and performance, with Williamson indulging in the theatrical potential of foul language for the first time in a while). The device of having an older Rupert narrating while a younger Rupert enacts the events becomes odd by act two (the play wisely points out that by the time of the events narrated, Rupert's in his 50s - the older Rupert responds by having the younger Rupert engage in more and more physical exercise) so we're never in doubt that this is a very self-serving version of events. It's a far more landscape view of events than we're used to seeing from Williamson - getting out of the middle-class-domestic-comedy niche suits him, and I'd love to see him exploring it further.

Without Lee Lewis' virtuoso staging, this could come dreadfully unstuck - as noted, the events are somewhat repetetive (then again, so's "Candide") - but with the help of Stephen Curtis' simple-but-adaptable design and a versatile ensemble of six playing around sixty characters between them, plus Sean O'Shea's aloof Older Rupert and Guy Edmond's puppy-doggishly eager Younger Rupert, we're never bored. The device at the end of the play of seeing the entire stage stripped back to the bare bones works beautifully in conjunction with Older Rupert's long closing monolouge - visuals perfectly reflecting and enhancing the script.

If it's a flawed work, it's a creatively interesting one, and is a eye-and-mind-catching night out.

No comments:

Post a Comment