Review / Power, sex, politics and an entertaining play

Theatre / “Exclusion”.  Written and directed by David Atfield, at The Street Theatre  until November 17. Reviewed by LEN POWER

Craig Alexander as Jasper Ferrier and Ethan Gibson as Craig Morron in “Exclusion”. Photo by Shelly Higgs

DAVID Atfield’s new play zeroes in on the impact of deception and ambition on a group of fictitious characters involved at a high level in Australian politics.

The rivalry between two very different politicians, both with their eye on the top job of prime minister, is complicated by their interaction with a handsome and gay young political staff member.

While the sexual orientation of the characters is important to the plot, the play is saying that the compromises we all make for acceptance, power, ambition, money and love rob us of the chance for true happiness.

David Atfield has written a play with sharply etched and recognisable characters and his actors play their roles with skill and depth.

At the centre of the play, Craig Morrow, young, gay and blindly in love, is well-played by Ethan Gibson. That his character retains our sympathy after being actively involved in a despicable act of deception, is a credit to the actor’s very human performance.

Craig Alexander pulls out all the stops in his fine portrayal of a thoroughly dislikeable, super-confident and hypocritical politician dripping with ambition.

Michael Sparks gives a nicely contrasting performance as Michael Connor, an older, gentler politician who becomes an easy target for Jasper’s vicious plans.

As Michael’s wife Caroline, Tracy Bourne gives a carefully restrained performance of a religious woman ill-at-ease about sexual matters and, as Jasper’s formidable and worldly wife Jacinta, Fiona Victoria Hopkins is very convincing.

Imogen Keen’s set design is simple and effective and the television constantly visible behind the curtain was a nice touch, keeping us aware that television news can be a constant threat to people in the public eye.

If would have been more realistic if a way could have been found for the character of Caroline Connor to show her personal conflicts about sex and religion without stating them directly to other characters and the play came dangerously close to melodrama towards the end with the emotional Michael Connor speeches.

This is a very entertaining play with good characters and nice touches of humour with a strong message that applies to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

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