Friday 16 January 2004

Hinterland, Matt Cameron, MTC, Jan 16, 2004

 Hinterland  by Matt Cameron  
 Melbourne Theatre Company
 Fairfax Studio, Jan 16 until Feb 21, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 16

Published in Herald Sun on Jan 20, 2004

Hinterland is Matt Cameron's serious comedy that pokes fun at just about everything in Australian politics and society.  It is a very dark and very funny play with an exceptional cast and direction.

Cameron's style draws on European absurdism, echoing Beckett  and Ionesco.

This is a laugh out loud play with slick direction by Peter Houghton , complex and evocative lighting by Philip Lethlean  on a transformational design by Dan Potra.

It is set in a 1950s Australian home and office. Henry Quely  (Tom Long) and his wife, Olive,  (Christen O' Leary) are a parody of old fashioned family values. They repeat a well-worn script in their daily routine of spousal interaction.

Everything is hunky dory   - until their slightly scruffy home is raided by government Minister, Winsome Snell  (Helen Thomson) accompanied by Frank Gruel,  (Kim Gyngell) her volatile head of security.

The government is dodgy. It keeps the public in the dark about  - well, just about everything.

Cameron's parallels with the Howard government and its policies are blatant, evoking spontaneous laughter and applause.

There is a suppressed report - aptly named "The Cumbersome Report" - that criticises the government.

In the "Hinterland", behind hidden doors and in secret corridors, reside the Opposition who are shadowy and frightened replicas of the Government.

Each character in the visible world has a nervous doppelganger in the shadowy hinterland.

The message is obvious. Ignorance is not bliss; government is deceptive, obsessed with power; fear is the best controller; a little safety is no replacement for liberty.

This is a consummate ensemble of four comic and dramatic actors.  Long plays Henry  with a palpable sense of his trembling existential crisis and he transforms beautifully into his doppelganger's  macho bravado.

O'Leary's Olive is cold, fickle, manic and colourful until she shifts into the shadow Olive who is warm and sensitive.

Gyngell is mad and unpredictable as the violent and confused henchman, Gruel Thomson is sexy, dangerous as Winsome. This double act has impeccable timing.

Hinterland is a fine beginning to the MTC year and a feather in Cameron's cap.

By Kate Herbert

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