Theater review: The triumph of man – A comedy in two acts

In a world where “fake news” proliferate and “deep fakes” cause us to question the evidence with our own eyes, Watson’s script offers a timely critique of those who manipulate “truth” to consolidate power and consolidate wealth.

The room opens with sobs in the dark. Two men are chained to a wall, prisoners whose names we never learn. The program calls them “One” (Arran Beattie) and “Two” (Chris Best), actors from a foreign country with no memory of their kidnapping or committing a crime. It was only with the introduction of fellow inmate Karl (Yoz Mensch) that our understanding of their plight began to take shape. Karl’s fortune has grown from a trusted pillow bearer in the throne room to a dungeon dweller, and it is through his disgrace that General Ferdinand’s character and the totalitarian structure of his government become clear.

It is a dictatorship, with General Ferdinand (Mensch) dangerously sensitive and bombastic at its head, with a dazzling military uniform and a tanned Jason Recliner throne. To mark the 30th anniversary of his tyrannical reign, the general wrote a play – The triumph of man – and kidnapped the two foreign actors to bring his “masterpiece” to the masses.

Dictator Artemon’s trusted minister (Poppy Mee), who, like everyone in this play, plays the dual role of a second character, dissident student Bec, serves as the link between the throne room and the dungeon. Bec and her roommate Axelle (Ellen Graham) are both college students and, being members of the intelligentsia, the couple live a precarious existence in the shadows cast by the public execution of Axelle’s parents for crimes. not specified against the state. Axelle, the more radical of the two, plots a plot to take advantage of the General’s play by murdering him while he attends the performance on opening night.

The cast is completed by Grace Boyle, in the roles of Ivana, the dictator’s wife, and Erasmus, court flatterer and local actor threatened by the esteem in which the general holds his kidnapped players. Boyle plays Ivana with quiet delicacy, the dictator’s wife delivering a delightfully unexpected moment in the second act.

Yoz Mensch as General Ferdinand “dangerously sensitive and bombastic”. Photo: Laura Franklin

Players all revel in their roles, their enthusiastic sycophantic sycophancy and the grandiloquence of the sometimes almost too talkative general for the confines of the hall – the stage cleverly designed by Angley to cover the spectrum of power from the dungeon to the throne to the throne. center of the room. Equally ingenious is the lighting design, with the ebb and flow of intensity enriching the emotional drama.

The highlight of the play is Beattie’s wonderfully hammered performance and Best of snippets of the General’s selfish script – an outrageously crushed piece of propaganda, or as the General calls it, “state-sponsored entertainment and education.” Both actors are torn – their lives are clearly on the line – but are they performing and hoping to change the regime from within? Or do they stay true to their principles and their art by refusing to be complicit in brainwashing a nation?

This play asks important questions about the beneficiaries of messages embedded in art and the media, and their vulnerability to hijacking as vehicles of propaganda. But in a world where conspiracy theories and vaccine hesitation are rife, where do we have distrust of the media and authority? Maybe the true value of The triumph of man is to remind ourselves of our individual responsibility to make prudent decisions about the sources of our information. And beware of men in dazzled uniforms.

The triumph of man: a comedy in two acts is at the Rumpus Theater until September 26.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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