Demagogue Adelaide Fringe 20241/2

Adelaide Fringe. The Studio, Holden Street Theatres. 23 Feb 2024


Demagogue is a satirical play about the parlous state of politics. Although it is nominally set in an Australian setting, it could be anywhere in the world. Let’s face it, politics is pretty much the same anywhere in the world, at least as far as the day-to-day machinations and ‘spinning’ are concerned.


The action follows a couple – Chris (played by Spencer Scholz) and Kate (Samantha Riley) – who are political heavyweights who want to become even heavier heavyweights, but the antics of their daughter might end up scuttling their ambitions. She has been caught out for some petty vandalism at her school, but her motives might be a little murkier than first meets the eye. Chris and Kate engage in a lengthy and tortuous fast-paced discussion in which they dissect and analyse possible motives for the vandalism, and how they should respond as politicians and as parents. It quickly emerges that theirs is a loveless marriage (of convenience?) and their successes as politician (him) and campaign manager (her) far outweigh their effectiveness as parents.


The text of the play is dense, and the brisk pace is unrelenting. There is scarcely time to think about the pithy and cutting comments the couple make before they move on to the next idea. It makes parliamentary question time look tame by comparison. Scholz is quite commanding on stage, and uses his physical presence and strong clear voice to underline Chris’ dominating nature. By comparison, Riley plays Kate in a non-demonstrative way relying on the acerbic text to do its job. This works except when her diction falters (some sentences appear to have no consonants) or when she speaks upstage without compensating for the exacting acoustics of The Studio performance space.


Who is the demagogue? Is it him, or is it her? Perhaps both? Perhaps everyone in the political process?


Demagogue is Yes Minister on steroids.


Kym Clayton


When: 23 Feb to 3 Mar

Where: The Studio, Holden Street Theatres