Comedy hits hard on uncomfortable truths

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Theatre / “How to Rule the World”, written by Nakkiah Lui and directed by Paige Rattray, at The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, until April 6. Reviewed by LEN POWER. 

Nakkiah Lui’s play is an incisive roller coaster ride through the current political, social and cultural issues facing this country. … Hamish Michael, left, Rhys Muldoon and Gareth Davies. Photo: Prudence Upton

FOLLOWING her success last year with her play, “Black Is the New White”, Nakkiah Lui has written a ferocious new comedy about manipulation in the political arena. Although written and played as farce, it has an uncomfortable ring of truth about it all.

Three political staffers, Vic (Aboriginal), Zaza (Chinese) and Chris (Islander), conspire to create a federal politician by training up an unknown actor. They plan to get him elected and defeat a Bill before parliament that threatens multiculturalism. Their election plan succeeds but they soon realise they have created an even bigger problem.

Nakkiah Lui’s play is an incisive roller coaster ride through the current political, social and cultural issues facing this country. The three protagonists are at the top of their game with their knowledge of media manipulation, discrimination, political correctness, multiculturalism and every other issue that stands in the way of running their scheme. The fact that they themselves display many of the traits they are critical of, gives the play another dimension that is very funny and very truthful. The first act is especially well-written. The second act has some moments where the comedy feels heavy-handed.

On a spectacular and attractive setting by designer Marge Horwell, the director, Paige Rattray, has staged the show very well. She has obtained nicely in-depth characters from all of her cast and keeps the action running at breath-taking speed throughout. Although the actors are miked, there were times when the fast dialogue was hard to hear.

There are excellent performances from Michelle Lim Davidson, Anthony Taufa and Nakkiah Lui as the three political schemers and Hamish Michael is a stand out as the gormless actor, Lewis Lewis, who is turned into the slick politician, Tommy Ryan. Rhys Muldoon is convincing as the nasty, foul-mouthed Prime Minister and Gareth Davies and Vanessa Downing sparkle in their multiple roles.

The music composed by Steve Francis and Paul Mac worked very well, breaking up the intensity of the dialogue at the right times. The lighting and audio visual design by Emma Valente was striking with some unexpected effects that worked very well.

With this play, Nakkiah Lui shows again that she is a strong and exciting voice in Australian drama.

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