By David Mamet. Dunstan Playhouse. State Theatre Company – 2 to 22 May
Politics has been a ripe topic for comic debate since former American President George W. Bush took office in the White House, and November by Mamet is the perfect vehicle for this kind of political commentary.
Set entirely in the oval office the story is of fictional president Charles Smith in the wake of an upcoming election, where his popularity is seriously waning and his chances of re-election are second only to America’s chances of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This single location comedy has a real chance of becoming stagnant, but is at no risk of being boring as Mamet’s gorgeous writing takes the audience on a hilarious journey through the machinations of this loquaciously ignorant character. Smith does everything in his power to retain governance, whilst securing his future financial prosperity, double crossing, scheming and plotting ways of defrauding the Turkey Association of two hundred million dollars. All the while, Smith is controlled by the selfish desires of his lesbian speech writer and power hungry presidential advisor.
Garry McDonald steams through the roll of Smith with consummate ease. His physicality is top notch and the rehearsed ease with which he portrays the leader of the free world relaxes the audience into the comedy from the outset. In the supporting role of presidential advisor Archer Brown, Peter Mitchell gives a meticulous and forthright performance which balances McDonanlds mania nicely.
As lesbian speech writer and antagonist to the president Barbara Lowing gives an endearing performance which has us thinking this play might take a quite serious turn onto the socially relevant issue of gay marriage. Stopping the president at every turn, Lowing clearly holds the upper hand in this professional relationship but soon discovers that no-one should be trusted.
Michael Habib has the gorgeous role of the Turkey association representative and delivers what could be one of his funniest characterisations as an obsessional, neurotic, Turkey loving, weirdo with only one thing on his mind - Turkey. Closing out the show is Jason Chong as recently offended Indian representative seeking revenge on Smith for insulting him. Although Chong gives a believable performance it was hard to see past the plastic Indian costume he had been given, which for my money didn’t work at all.
Full of swearing, this production does come with a warranted warning, firing from the outset with uses of the F word the scripting cools down early in the first act, by which time our Presidents character is firmly established. This is a great piece of writing and wonderfully directed by State Theatre’s Adam Cook.
Check it out while it’s still open, for the 2011 season another well directed comedy for South Australia.