Venue: Studio Blueprint (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 17 – 27, 2019
Playwright: Paul Gilchrist
Director: Chris Huntly-Turner
Cast: William Bartolo, Damien Carr, Tara Clark, Clay Crighton, Alex Daly, Marcella Franco, Nick O’Regan, Angus Mills, Asalemo Tofete, Alex Rowe, Shannon Ryan, Sonya Kerr
Fortinbras steps into the limelight, now that Hamlet is dead. In Paul Gilchrist’s Appropriation, Fortinbras the Norwegian crown prince, has to work out a strategy so that he can take over Denmark. We learn that the prince likes to think of himself as a ruthless warrior, the type that distrusts the use of words and all things artistic. His wife Gabrielle is on a mission to convince him, that the most efficient way to conquer the Danish is not through violence, but by deception. The narrative of Appropriation is provocative, and passionately conveyed, even if its plot structure is frustratingly tangential. There is philosophy everywhere we look, which can be disorienting, but this is certainly not a piece of writing that can be accused of underestimating its audience.
The production is energised by Chris Huntly-Turner’s exuberant direction. Emotional intensity is built into every scene, with a cast of twelve bringing excellent conviction to the stage. Nick O’Regan is full of vigour as Fortinbras, and convincing as the sixteenth-century brute. Gabrielle is a more complex character, with Sonya Kerr effectively portraying her contradictory qualities, and proving adept at raising the drama to fever pitch, in the play’s final moments when she manipulates the populace into submission. Also noteworthy is the compelling Asalemo Tofete, in the role of Player, refreshingly honest as the persecuted artist fighting for the right to tell stories.
In the era of “alternative facts”, it is no longer expression that comes under fire, but the very notion of truth that is being threatened. We seem to find ourselves in a strange quandary, with consensus trumping evidence, and realities being created out of collective delusion and deliberate ignorance. If we believe that those who shirk their responsibility to tell the truth are not only unpunished, but are in fact rewarded, our social fabric can only deteriorate. We have to be vigilant, not only with the information we receive, but also in the way we defend what we believe to be right. Any way the wind blows, it is always a virtue, to question everything, including and especially the self. It is crucial that we continue to believe in the truth that will set us free, even if the truth seems never to stop shifting.