Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Hate, Stephen Sewell, Feb 26, 2013 **1/2

By Stephen Sewell, Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse until March 8, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 26, 2013
Stars: **1/2 
This review was published in Herald Sun online on Wed Feb 27, 2013, and in print some time later. KH

There are certainly some meaty issues about political and familial power relationships in Stephen Sewell’s 1988 play, Hate, but the content is buried under repetitive dialogue and relentless tirades from the five family members.

Despite the density of the text, the performances from the cast are strong, particularly William Zappa as John Gleason, the tyrannical, manipulative father, corporate giant and Liberal party stalwart.

John summons to his country home, his wife, Eloise (Glenda Linscott), and adult children, Raymond (Grant Piro), the stockbroker, Celia (Sara Wiseman) the nurse, and Michael (Ben Geurens) the layabout.

Even before his arrival, John’s powerful, chauvinistic and rightwing presence is palpable as the siblings seethe with rage and venom about their father’s treatment of his children.

Raymond rails about his father’s deception and mismanagement of the family company, Celia blusters about her choice to isolate herself from the business and her resentment and hatred of her father, and Michael reveals his mistrust, sense of betrayal and inability to commit to anything.

Meanwhile, Mother lives in a state of cheerful denial and relentless positivity.

However, the characters seem incomplete and dislikeable, Sewell’s dialogue is overly didactic, dripping with unremitting invective and spite, and it repeats the same issues in different words.

While there are scattered moments of wit and some entertaining references to Australian politics that are strangely pertinent, given that the play is 25 years old, issues such as the massacre of an aboriginal community on the family’s land feel bolted on.

Marion Potts’ production is set on a very wide stage that has the audience swivelling their necks to try to see action set in corners of the space, and she incorporates classical music that seems out of place.

The second half has more to recommend it, as the family’s dysfunction and the father’s profound betrayal of each member is unravelled.

The lack of subtlety and dramatic range in the script makes this a difficult play to enjoy, and it may leaves an audience feeling bruised and exhausted.

By Kate Herbert

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