I shall only touch briefly on the controversy surrounding MKA’s The Economist because some journalism, especially from Melbourne’s Herald Sun, is sensationalist and lacks the depth to persist. With taglines of ‘Norwegian Mass Killer No Madder than John Howard‘ and accounts of a Melbourne theatre’s ‘stage shocker… offering pity to a Norwegian mass murderer‘ (courtesy of Channel 10 news,) the scoops that attack playwright Tobias Manderson-Galvin seemed half baked and eventually quitened down so that by opening night a little over a week later, the outraged public had died down and audience mingled casually outside on the astroturfed basketball court eager to see the play, any memory of John Howard diminished.
Based on Anders Breivik, that Norwegian who killed 92 people this July, Maderson-Galvin created, from extensive source material, the fictional character, Andrew Berwick, played by newly blonded Zoey Dawson, and recounts a series of perturbing events leading up to the day of the massacre. Not always serious and broken up by a scattering of humor, the ensemble clammer over one another as a well oiled machine to present characters and scenes that float around his mind to torment and fuel his final decree: A spine tingling climax. Manderson-Galvin’s scintilating writing, directed by talented Van Badham (also dramaturge,) comes together to present an engaging work of theatre that is bold and unique.
The low-fi-ness of this production is probably key to MKA productions, where the focus is on the writing. Ordinarily, design enhances the story and guide the audience. Here, the audience are left to build the scenes in their minds and are thus constantly engaged, though regrettably, a couple of key moments are overshadowed by lack of clarity and confusion.
Nonetheless, the designers contribute cleverly.
David Samuel’s set prescribes the distressed room of Andrew Berwick, amongst other settings, with walls marked by charged foreshadowing red X’s. Within that, the actors slide from scene to scene effortlessly using readily available props to dress the scene to light (lighting designer Julia Knibbs) and create a pertinent and effective soundscape (sound designer Nick McCorriston.) Resourceful items like a collapsible umbrella mimics a gun being reloaded. Wall ornaments held by the actors are befitting and while amusing, they also enforce the creepiness of the environment with the suggestion of ominous voyeurs.
Chloe Greaves costumes the actors with uneasy cultish uniforms that resonate brilliantly with the syncopated rhythms of the piece. The emergency-red ‘lacoste’ sweaters, paired with 90’s cut middle aged beige pants with a Scandinavian sensibility, multiplied by six, plunges us in this world immediately.
The Economist is well worth seeing and doesn’t lessen your respect for former political leaders. It will be playing until the 10th of December.