How To Rule The World

STC How To Rule The World Michelle Lim Davidson, Anthony Taufa and Nakkiah Lui - photo by Prudence UptonIt was a rather disorientating experience to walk into the theatre and be confronted by Marg Horwell’s splendid setting depicting the hallowed halls of Parliament House.

This is a familiar environment for many of the Canberra audience, and one which added additional piquancy to the events depicted in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Nakkiah Lui’s savage, and hugely entertaining, political satirical farce.

The premise is brilliant. An Aboriginal journalist, Vic (played by Lui herself), Zaza, a Korean pro-bono immigration lawyer (Michelle Lim Davidson) and a Tongan political advisor, Chris, (Anthony Taufa) decide to take on the power structures that have seen their communities marginalised. They decide to take on the world by finding a likeable white guy that they can groom to become a political puppet.

After a series of fruitless auditions they settle on Lewis Lewis, (Hamish Michael) whom they reinvent as Tommy Ryan, and successfully manage to have him installed as an independent senator who will hold the balance of power. Unfortunately for them, Tommy Ryan begins to relish his new-found power, and turns into a Frankenstein monster they’re no longer able to control.

The events seem all too familiar, and Lui’s deft writing is sharp, fluid and authentic. Her characters are believable even when bordering on ridiculous. Her own aboriginality provides her with a unique platform with which to critique community attitudes on important social issues, and she doesn’t hold back.

Her three protagonists, Vic, Zaza and Chris, blithely bang on about perceived racism, without recognising that their own views are just as racist. All manner of social issues get a working over, though often the audience is too busy laughing at the brilliant slapstick and clever quips to pay them much heed.

Paige Rattray’s direction is pacey and imaginative and utilises the opportunities offered by Horwell’s superb setting to create hilarious moments. The use of drop down lights to create a Prime Ministerial press conference was a particularly clever touch.

Rhys Muldoon oozed smug self-satisfaction as the venal Prime Minister. Vanessa Downing and Gareth Davies both delighted with their multiple costume and personality changes, creating a whole gaggle of parliament house habitués, while Hamish Michael’s depiction of Lewis Lewis’s transformation into Tommy Ryan is sheer comedic joy.

How To Rule The World
The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Season: 3 – 6 April 2019

Image: Michelle Lim Davidson, Anthony Taufa and Nakkiah Lui feature in How To Rule The World – photo by Prudence Upton

Review: Bill Stephens OAM