Thursday, 25 August 2005

Stuff Happens by David Hare, Aug 25, 2005

Stuff Happens by David Hare  
 Company B, Belvoir
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, from Aug 25, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 25, 2005

David Hare's play, Stuff Happens, is like a documentary-drama about George W. Bush's regime and the decision by the US to invasion of Iraq.

The result is harsh criticism and biting political satire directed at every member of the current United States government and English Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

This production, directed by Neil Armfield for Company B Belvoir, Sydney, boasts an exceptional cast of sixteen actors not often seen on stage in Melbourne.

The stage is starkly designed with a wall of huge, distressed steel girders upstage.

The characters sit and stand around a huge conference table, at times looking like characters at the Last Supper.

As the political events unfold preceding the March 2003 strike on Iraq, scenes move swiftly.

Hare takes verbatim speeches or snatches of dialogue from Bush, (Greg Stone) Cheney, (Russsell Kiefel) Rumsfeld, (Russell Dykstra) Powell (Wayne Blair) and Blair (Rhyss Muldoon) and inter-cuts them with dramatisations of crucial conversations that were never made public.

Between scenes, characters swarm across the stage, swinging the huge table to a new position or forming tableaux of meetings we know occurred but of which we have little intelligence.

This alien world of power and violent decision making in the White House, Downing Street or the United Nations headquarters, is somehow represented as a cartoon. The characters are like satirical rubbery figures mouthing platitudes. Each actor almost impersonates these political characters.

The terrifying thing is that these cartoon men - and Condoleeza Rice (Leah Purcell)  - are real decision- makers for our world.

The vengeful, self-centred and ill-informed actions of the Bush government seem to be made by a boys club of ignorant but single-minded people.

Tony Blair is represented as trying to maintain international law and a philanthropic view of the rest of the world. He sees himself saving people from tyranny. Bush and his cronies want to blow Iraq into the Stone Age as retaliation for September 11.

The rapidity and idiocy of the decisions made leave one gasping when seen compressed into three hours.

The play is didactic, arguing a particular political point and representing the  decisions by the US and England as hasty , ill-considered and dangerous.

Greg Stone plays Bush with a cunning, boyish stubbornness. As his cohort of bully-boys is superb. Wayne Blair shows the invidious position of Colin Powell  and Muldoon, as Tony Blair, displays the hope and eventual panic of the British PM.

Stuff happens not an easy night in the theatre but it is a challenging and educational one.

By Kate Herbert

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