Another Oleanna Review

A review by Maggie Rainey-Smith from her blog:

This is a terrific performance by the Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe. They describe the play in the promotional flyer thus ‘this play about political correctness gone wrong or maybe it’s about the misuse of power has divided audiences around the world’. Well, I don’t think Mr Thompson [Employers Association] has quite managed that, I think he has united audiences in New Zealand who think his ideas dated, unscientific and well, as mentioned before, laughable.

David Mamet’s play is not so funny, more compelling, and thought-provoking. The acting is outstanding and all the more impressive because one of the actors, Damian Reid, was stranded in Melbourne due to the ash-cloud from the Chilean volcano, and John Marwick, Director of the play, stepped in and read the lines (to perfection) of the Professor. The student, Carol, is mesmerizingly played by Sarah-Rose Burke who has to develop the character of Carol over eighty minutes in a stunning yet subtly splendid performance. It is the first time I have seen the play and cannot compare this production with any other, but it was brilliantly rendered so that your sympathies are constantly moving (well mine, anyway) from one character to another. The wardrobe too, played a fascinating role in the development of the character of Carol, the student, who starts the play as a confused almost hapless student in her ankle-length little black socks and slipper-style shoes, and in the next act she is wearing fabulously hot shiny red shoes and the final act wearing lace-up boots, in the powerful position of being able to threaten the Professor’s tenure, and finally, much worse, for both of them.

Oh, the ending is superb, and having looked up the play, I see that the ending is often changed sometimes, depending on the Director…

“The danger with the play is that it can easily seem a partial, loaded, one-sided attack on the student and on female solidarity in general .But Pinter’s production scrupulously avoids that trap by giving equal weight to both sides of the argument.”

And so too, does John Marwick’s production.

I was reminded of ‘Disgrace’ (J.M. Coetzee), both the book and movie, which explore the sexual power relationships both within a university and in a compelling story of forgiveness in a rural apartheid setting.

If you live in the Wellington region, it’s worth booking a seat in the intimate theatre up on stage at Muritai School, to be at the very least disturbed at the very best, spellbound and provoked.

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