Review: Monopoly (Hot Room Theatre Group)

Venue: Petersham Bowling Club (Petersham NSW), Oct 13 – 14, 2017 with performances at other venues thereafter
Playwright: Steven Hopley
Director: Steven Hopley
Cast: Jasper Garner Gore, Benjamin Kuryo, Diego AR Melo, Alison Lee Rubie, Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou

Theatre review
It makes sense to write a play about Sydney people playing Monopoly. We are obsessed with property prices, and cannot stop talking about it. Living in a metropolis requires that each of us has a certain level of aspiration, even just to survive this dog-eat-dog world. The characters in Steven Hopley’s Monopoly are competitive, though to varying degrees. Aside from one white cishet male, born with a silver spoon in the mouth, the other board game participants have limitations, in their race to the top.

At its best, the piece discusses the idea of privilege and by the same token, systematic disadvantage, as we understand them to exist in Australia today. Arguments are made about the kinds of people who benefit most from the way our society is structured, while others are regularly left behind. It is noteworthy that issues of poverty and sexism are given some focus, while other aspects of our inequity, such as sexuality and race, are left conspicuously neglected.

An exuberant ensemble drives the piece, with each actor demonstrating a good grasp of the material. There are portions that become convoluted, when they become deeply involved in a game that the audience can only ever have a peripheral appreciation for, but Hopley’s direction is always careful to provide a sense of urgency to sustain our attention. It is a well-rehearsed show, entertaining, if slightly hesitant in its efforts to provoke thought.

The Monopoly game requires that competitors amass houses, or face decimation. It is not quite the same in real life. The need to own property is rarely questioned, an archetypal Australian dream that is ubiquitous yet only vaguely justified. The characters in Monopoly are a true reflection of the Sydneysider. We all want to possess a piece of this land, when all we should ever be content with, is having the right to live here.

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