Wednesday, 8 December 2004

Machiavelli, Machiavelli by John Upton, Dec 9, 2004

 Machiavelli, Machiavelli  by John Upton
La Mama, from Dec 9, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Machiavelli, Machiavelli, by John Upton, seems to be running on a path to a tragic ending for its solo character, Leah Hunt. (Libby Stone) Happily, the pessimism turns to a more cheering and optimistic ending for the protagonist.

In fact, Lean Hunt could be called an antagonist. She is certainly a provocative and gladiatorial character, an almost copybook local government Labour Party politician. She lost her local government election on a controversial platform of de-sexing stray cats.

On the way to tis up beat ending, Upton's play, rather confusingly, has several unintentional false endings where Leah looks about to give up the fight to survive.

It is a tall order to hold an audience alone on stage and Libby Stone looks a little uncomfortable in this production directed by David Myles.

 It is particularly noticeable in the scenes that involve flashbacks or the character talking to a second invisible character.

In some of these scenes reminiscing about a long past lover, a voice over by Leah as a younger woman or representing her thoughts is an awkward stage convention that leaves the actor looking like a shag on a rock. Some clumsy lighting changes do not help.

Leah is the outgoing Mayor and she is not happy about her election loss. She held the mayoral position for thirty years until this day and her entire world and identity are crashing around her. Even the cab drivers are no longer respectful. She drinks whisky, and babbles to her goldfish and her bird called Mr. Town Clerk.

We see her almost imprisoned in her cramped and untidy little living room, changing from dressing gown to street clothes.

She desperately seeks some acceptance of her change in status, attempts to understand the election loss and tries to find meaningful work in a fickle political world that seems to have abandoned her immediately.

Although stone works hard throughout, there is little light and shade in her performance of this evidently volatile and voluble local identity. What we crave is some heightened emotion, some compelling passion and despair to meet Leah's sense of loss.
 Upton has a strong sense of the petty bickerings and napoleon complexes of local government officials. His dialogue however, is not rivetting and the production lacks dramatic tension.

The play moves in fits and starts but thankfully finds its positive ending.

By Kate Herbert

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