Posted by Seanna van Helten
27. Feb, 2013
Audiences in 1988 must have received a shock when the curtain closed for the first time on Stephen Sewell’s Hate. Commissioned on the occasion of Australia’s Bicentenary, Sewell offered a bracing critique of the nation’s ruling class—a portrait not of a “Lucky Country” but a raging, hate-filled one.
Twenty-five years later the critique feels just as fresh in Marion Potts’s brilliant production for Malthouse Theatre, which resonates both with current political discourse and the familial sagas of Australia’s super-rich mining magnates and media tycoons that dominate the headlines.
John Gleason (William Zappa) is a prominent businessman and aspiring politician. On Easter weekend, he summons his children home to their grand rural estate to make an important announcement. Michael (Ben Geurens) and Celia (Sara Wiseman) arrive with some trepidation, each struggling to escape the ambiguous legacies of their father’s wealth and his power over the household. Eldest son Raymond (Grant Piro), meanwhile, has secret plans to oust his father as Chairman of the family company, seeking support from his siblings and his mother, Eloise (Glenda Linscott).
Beneath the Gleasons’ squabbles and schemes simmers an undertone of rage and violence that inflates this family drama into one of operatic proportions. With the Gleasons, Sewell shows us a microcosm of a nation overcome by misanthropy, evidenced by corporate greed, political dog-whistling, and the overlooked injustices perpetrated against the powerless. One of the best features of Dayna Morrissey’s set design is a pit centre stage, into which the family carelessly fling their refuse. It’s a breathtaking symbol of unexamined privilege, as well as the logical endpoint of the family’s vicious cycle of hate.
The performances are all excellent, especially Zappa’s ruthless patriarch and Linscott’s wilfully oblivious Eloise. Potts’s production is an awe-inspiring opening to Malthouse’s 2013 season, and a significant revival of a major Australian play.
Hate is playing at Malthouse Theatre until March 8
For more information and tickets visit malthousetheatre.com.au
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