Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Politician's Wife

It’s Thursday, so it must be theatre tonight. We’re away from our usual haunt and back at BATS for tonight’s performance of The Politician’s Wife. The play is being staged in The Dome on the top floor, which is an open venue with limited room for stage dressing and props; and seats along two sides of the stage, facing each other.

First up, we went for dinner at Hummingbird on Courtenay Place. This is a venue that we appear to frequent once a year, to take advantage of the Entertainment offer. They serve reasonable food but nothing out of the ordinary…we had fish crudo and lamb kofta to start, followed by eye fillet with oxtail pie, and gnocchi with burnt butter. All cooked very well, and served competently. God, we’re so demanding these days! The fish crudo would be better in the summer, I feel, but otherwise all was good and tasty. The meat dish was fairly substantial, so I didn’t really feel like a pudding, but we manged to force down a house-made salty caramel chocolate with our coffee and tea.

We ambled round the corner to BATS and took our seats. The theatre has recently been strengthened and refurbished, so at least the seats are comfortable!

The Politician’s Wife follows the adventures of Kim, the privileged wife of a politician who is standing for re-election in an unspecified election in an unspecified country in an unspecified year (but really, it’s Australia). Kim worked as a nurse in the distant past, but now gives speeches for charities. The play follows her encounter with a former medical colleague, and her trip to the refugee centre where he works. As the play unfolds, the four actors assume a number of characters, from the politican and his adviser, to the documentary film-maker trying to get access to the centre, and the refugees themselves.

The first half of the play unfolds with predictable, er, predictability. It’s in the second half that things take a different turn, and the whole ends rather more messily than the nice, neat tie-up you might expect. In this, the author is showing more a real-life outcome, rather than the artificial constraints of drama. Everyone is compromised to a certain extent – the wife, the politicians, the medical staff, even the refugees themselves.

Having only four actors probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the costume changes unfortunately break up some of the transitions, so at times it felt a bit clumsy. The scene changes were also voiced with a cod-Eastern European accent, which seemed unnecessary.

What started as looking like a fairly straightforward piece of agitprop did eventually turn into something more nuanced than it first appeared. It had its flaws, but overall it made you think a bit more deeply about the compromises we all make and what our price would be. The purpose of good art is to make you think, so it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but then, what is?

I’ll try and book something a bit cheerier next time, though.

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