Oleanna Flying Penguin prodcutions 2022Flying Penguin Productions. The Space Theatre. 18 Nov 2022


Basis of play:

Carol: “I’m gonna fail. My course. I’m gonna fail. My degree is gone. Professor, help?”

Professor John: “I need this new house. I need tenure approval. I need to… who is this student?”


Within this conundrum of pain and need, between student failing her course and Professor hanging on to the future, playwright David Mamet plays savagely yet subtly with politics and humanity of higher education and more.


30 years since Oleanna was first produced, it has been attached to many socio-political controversies, greatest of recent time being the #metoo movement.

Director David Mealor’s production certainly addresses it, but is not confined to it.


With excoriating precision, Mealor has crafted a production spinning and turning in such a way that both characters’ needy, angry questioning of the other to understand and see where they’re at (or believe they are) is constantly frustrated by barriers, both put up and of misunderstandings, in what they say.


The three part structure offered is revelatory. It is electrifyingly and utterly brutal in performance. How deftly, sudden and sharply words progress from lazy expressions of entitlement. Sound bites of trite efforts to ‘explain’ the self, ultimately imprisoning and destroying, leaving neither person involved any better off.


Carol is in genuine turmoil. Her pain is crystal clear. John is initially too remote from this. Both are looking for a way to navigate the turbulence of Carol’s desperate enquiry for comprehension. Instead, it becomes a bitter battle between two - at the core - not terribly nice people.


The bare and savage emotion fuelling this production is perfectly served by Designer Kathryn Sproul’s white, slightly raised, square dais, on which is an office desk chair and guest chair.


This dais turns three times. Reflecting the shifting relations between John and Carol; mirroring their demand of the other to ‘see’ and ‘understand’.

Composer Quentin (Quincy) Grant’s score for strings is brilliantly structured and deployed so subtly. It sits, unexpectedly, just beneath the surface tension of the unravelling drama onstage and makes one almost momentarily jump as it kicks in.

Chris Petridis’s lighting comprises sophisticated, granular gradations of white from a whopping bank of lights high upstage, only noticeable after the moment.

These elements greatly support the performers’ work in expressing the unspoken, a key element to any Mamet work.


Renato Musolino as John and Georgia Laity as Carol are greatness onstage. They play off each other with complete confidence and control. The see-saw like rise and falls in their relationship is articulated with precision and clarity, matching the equal divide of incomprehension and ensuring bitterness.


David O’Brien


When: 17 to 26 Nov

Where: The Space Theatre

Bookings: ticketek.com.au