The Big Con by Guy Rundle. Max Gillies and Eddie Perfect, directed by Aubrey Mellor and Denis Moore. Canberra PlayhouseMay 10 – 14, 2005, 8pm. Canberra Ticketing 6275 2700 or www.canberraticketing.com.au
What a ripper! This is such unforgiving political satire that it's hard to imagine any of the targetted politicians willingly watching. Rundle's words and Gillies' characterisations, especially of Downer, Ruddock, Vanstone and Howard, are not simply humorous or even mere clever cutting commentaries. They reveal a bitterness in exposing the stupidity, the hypocrisy, the inhumanity, and the glorification of power.
I am sure I heard a certain SES public servant call Bravo! from the balcony on opening night, and I say bravo indeed. Max Gillies is a national treasure, a supreme actor (on stage and screen) not only for the outward instantly recognisable representations of people we see in the media - you will never forget his Amanda Vanstone - but for his ability to take us inside their personalities. A special treat is his historian Keith Windshuttle, a figure who has discovered a ploy to overcome his insignificance. Rundle's scripting gives the actor great material, but it is Gillies who makes the characters live.
The relative weakness of The Big Con, is that Eddie is not as perfect as Max. Part of the problem is technical - Perfect's diction is not as precise and the first night audio balance too often left his voice masked by his piano. He wrote his own lyrics, some songs failing to catch the note of true satire. Some people found the Gays Should Not Marry song too gross, even offensive, while other songs tried to be too clever. Perfect has a lot to learn from Guy Rundle's verbal subtlety and variety. At the same time, his musical humour and performance are excellent, and he holds the show together well while Gillies changes backstage.
The show builds to the point where I found myself unable to stop laughing until I discovered myself cringing with horror. This is the mark of great gutsy theatre, which should not be missed.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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