Straight White Men @ Fairfax Studio
Both script and performance shine in the MTC’s latest political satire, Straight White Men. Coming to Australia for the first time, this isa hilarious show, but the script also includes razor sharp social commentaries that will certainly leave you deep in thought.
Set in their childhood family lounge room, three brothers gather for Christmas with their dad. It’s the first time they’ve all been together for a while, so they indulge in the usual family traditions of board games, movies and Chinese takeaway on Christmas Eve. Despite the overarching social commentary in this play, the antics between the family members mean it’s by no means a cold performance. All of the bonding, reminiscing, arguing and banter keeps this performance light and palatable. A true accomplishment of this play is its ability to pepper comedic relief into a dialogue filled with dramatic tension – and make it work.
One of America’s most hotly talked about playwrights, Young Jean Lee is the woman behind the witty one-liners and thought provoking monologues. She cleverly expresses what most of us already know: that straight white males are the most privileged of us all. By taking a refreshing approach to this topic, Straight White Men endeavours to home in on the guilt that such men can feel. This comes in the form of one of the brothers, Matt (Gareth Reeves) – a passionate political activist, Matt martyrs himself from a fulfilling life in a bid to make up for how much privilege he was born into. His family then offer their views on how he should tackle his guilt.
There’s his brother Jake (Luke Ryan), a rich, recently divorced banker whose self-awareness is somewhat surprising, but by all means refreshing. He’s an arsehole and he knows it. There’s also Drew (Hamish Michael), a playful yet level headed writer, and their dad, Ed (John Gaden), a quintessential father who just wants the best for his boys. Each character has a different view on Matt’s struggles, and the distinct nature of these views works to keep the audience on their toes. Each character has something relevant and insightful to say, making it easy to sympathise with them.
Perfectly suited to their roles, the cast members’ dynamic relationship is another highlight. Emitting strong stage presence, the actors hold the audience’s attention with every word, motion and glance. They are purposeful and powerful in their execution.
A further notable aspect of the play is the stagehand-in-charge, Candy Bowers, who appears sporadically throughout the show. She pops in and out of the stage performing set changes, while making her own witty social comments along the way, for all the more comedic effect. It’s a playful reminder that you are of course watching a show in a theatre, but it doesn’t let you forget the most poignant ideas that this piece of work is trying to get across.
An expertly crafted script paired with a renowned theatre company is sure to be a winner, and the MTC’s rendition of Straight White Men is no exception.
By Abbey Lew-Kee