RAW: November – State Theatre Company – Dunstan Playhouse – 3K

Charles ‘Chuck’ Smith is coming to the end of his first and – with a lack of support from the Election Committee, a barely existent re-election campaign and poll ratings so low they can barely be seen – final term as American President. He is less than happy about the situation and the news that he will not even get a library when he leaves is the last straw. He decides that he must be re-elected, even if that means making shonky deals with local Native Americans, calling his sick speech-writer into the office and extorting funds from the nearest available source.

The set, from Victoria Lamb, is a very good representation of the Oval Office, capturing its best known features and opulence. The lighting (Mark Pennington) is well adapted to suit the time of day visible through the large windows behind the President’s gorgeous carved timber desk. Together they set the scene well.

Gary McDonald’s portrayal of Chuck brings to mind a petulant and spoilt child. While this is probably an accurate interpretation of the character as written and there is a lot to enjoy in the performance, it does get a tad grating. As his brown-nosing but slightly more world-aware personal adviser Archer Brown, Peter Michell is suitably unctuous. The character of Clarice Bernstein (Barbara Lowing) – Chuck’s speech writer who chooses to use his desperation to her own advantage – is written and played for laughs, however the interactions between her and Chuck seemed inconsistent and, at times, pointless.

Michael Habib embodies “the turkey representative” well, creating a man who is not overburdened with intelligence himself and lives for his turkeys. In him, Chuck may have found the Cash Cow he needs to be able to buy enough air-time to convince the American people to vote him back in. Jason Chong fills the small and less than inspiring role of Chief Dwight Grackel, adequately. While all of the actors do a decent job with their individual characters, there is no overall cohesion as an ensemble and the energy is sadly lacking for the majority of the show.

The humour in this play seems to rely on the old adage “it’s funny because it’s true”, however it misses the mark slightly due to everything being so over the top that it becomes too unrealistic. The lack of energy also detracted and the American accents used appeared to affect the actors’ projection, making it difficult to hear and understand some of the dialogue (and jokes). Though not a triumph, there is potential in this show and hopefully as the run goes on, the energy will rise and it will be fulfilled.

Kryztoff Rating: 3K

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  1. MiriamK’s review is spot on. This play was beautifully produced, but just wasn’t entertaining. There were few laughs, which wasn’t just a function of the difficulty in hearing and understanding the actors. It was unrealistic enough to be annoying, but not enough to be farcical. (The Secret Service on an extended coffee break – please.)

    We nearly left at interval, a reaction not considered since enduring ‘Waiting for Godot’.

  2. texaslad funny how you seemed to have no difficulty directly quoting from the script….but yet had difficulty understanding us?……..and few laughs?……so that sound we heard on stage wasnt laugher every 15 to 20 seconds?……and of course a beautifully produced production cant possibly be entertaining……..an experienced theatre goer are we?………go to a movie instead!

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