Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Joy of Text, MTC, June 17, 2011

 The Joy of Text, MTC *** 1/2
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • June 17, 2011 2:08PM

The Joy of Text, Melbourne Theatre Company, Fairfax Studio until July 23, 2011

WE KNOW teenagers can be cruel, but the plan of 17-year-old Danny (James Bell) to prove to his teachers just how clever he is turns very nasty indeed.

When he implements his post-modern, social experiment, using satire to critique hypocrisy, he causes ructions at his school.
The first half of Robert Reid's The Joy of Text, deftly directed by Aidan Fennessy, is a hilarious, satirical view of teachers, students, plagiarism and the use and abuse of the English language.

The second half reveals the repercussions on all four characters of Danny's self-serving plot, but it lacks the momentum and cohesion of the first half.

All hell breaks loose when literature teacher Diane (Louise Siversen), proposes putting on syllabus The Illusion of Consent, a controversial, purportedly autobiographical book by a teenage girl who falsely claims she had an affair with a teacher.

We are reminded of Helen Demidenko's award-winning but falsified book and Helen Garner's expose, The First Stone.
Siversen is achingly funny as jaded, bolshie Diane, the literature teacher obsessed with linguistic correctness.

Bell is both charming and repellent as Danny, the manipulative, arrogant but very clever teenager, while Helen Christinson captures the anxiety, ambition and girlishness of young teacher Amy.

Peter Houghton's Steve is a comical study of an acting principal spiralling out of control in a crisis. Imagine John Cleese as a teacher.

Despite its false endings, The Joy of Text is a funny but revealing study of the damage wrought by an unrestrained teenage ego.

Star rating: *** 1/2

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