Monday, November 1, 2010

THE CLEVER COUNTRY

By Bruce Hoogendoorn,
Street Theatre  6 -16 October 2010

reviewed by Bill Stephens

A statistic revealing that university science enrolments had dropped by 3000 in five years provided the inspiration for this biting satire by Canberra playwright Bruce Hoogendoorn.

Cataloguing the trevails of scientist Andrew Dean (Bruce Kavanagh) who invents a machine supposedly capable of stimulating minds to improve the ability to draw and play music, provides Hoogendoorn with plenty of grist for wicked comment on the ethics  of the science, fashion, advertising and television industries.

When the Minister for Science (David Vallenti) offers Andrew 10 years funding if he can raise science enrolments by 20 per cent in a year, Andrew accepts the challenge which includes the services of the Minister's ambitious assistant Sarah (Michelle Cooper) who strongly believes "a message is not as important as the messenger".

Andrews' inept attempts to win the challenge are catalogued in a series of well-written scenes, highlighting in the riotous punch-up with the director of a fashion school (Clinton McRobert) during a television show when both men try to attract student Fiona (Jamie Ishfani) to their respective disciplines.

Director Daniel McCusker has his strong cast play the characters in an exaggerated surreal style which works well for the comedy but tends to prevent the characters making much emotional contact with the audience. However good performances particularly from Kavanagh, Cooper, Vallenti, Isfahani and a delightfully eccentric Fiona Fox ensures an entertaining, even thought-provoking evening of theatre.

(This review was published in the October 14-20 edition of "City News".)

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