The Incorruptible by Louis Nowra.Directed by Aubrey Mellor. Designer: Shaun Gurton. Sydney Theatre Company at Canberra Theatre Centre, September 4 – 7, 1996.
Don't miss this new production of The Incorruptible. Since its Playbox production in Melbourne a year ago, the script has been tightened, characters have more depth and the humour more edge.
If you ever wondered how Joh Bjelke-Petersen's pilot could have remained so loyal, Rachel Szalay's characterisation of Louise Porter will show you, as she develops from lapsed Catholic cynical realist to follower of the faith, whose eyes are finally opened to a new understanding. Hers is the central role in the emotional interplay between Ion Stafford, the incorruptible loner who is made Premier of Queensland and makes himself Prime Minister of Australia, and Ed Gabelich (Gabo), political wheeler and dealer who shows how the loner's single-mindedness creates corruption and chaos for everybody else.
On opening night John Howard as Ion and Denis Moore as Gabo were so finely tuned in the development of the humour and the bitterness in their roles that they both starred and gave Szalay the support she needed for her quality to shine through in the second act. This was top class ensemble playing which is an absolute pleasure to see.
Louis Nowra experiments with style in each new play, and Shaun Gurton has provided wonderful, huge and colourful back projections and shadows which are a delight in themselves, but especially enhance Nowra's statement "I work by resonance and metaphor". The play is full of laughs which reverberate against reality. Words spoken have different explicit and implicit meanings in public and private responses. Events have the unpredictability of real life in an expressionist setting.
The music includes Peter Sculthorpe's Earth Cry - this title sums up for me the central theme. Nowra is an original, and prolific writer whose work always has integrity. The earth does cry in this play, though you may be laughing even at the end. I was reminded of a King Lear in which Cordelia is left to face the truth, and Kent clowns for our amusement on a tightrope above filthy sawdust mulch, the blood and bone around the roses, which fertilises our lives. This is an enjoyable, at times unnerving, and satisfying theatre experience.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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