Behind every great sporting hero “autobiography” hovering in the background is a humble ghostwriter. More often than not it is a young journalist, a struggling philosopher, novelist or poet perhaps, like Claudia (Belinda McClory) who weaves together a celebrity’s life of questionable literacy, ad hoc events and disjointed anecdotes into a palpable profitable form. And sports autobiographies are very very big sellers. In The Ghost Writer, an extraordinary new whodunit commissioned by MTC playwright Ross Mueller, we track the life of one such ghost writer who as it turns out may well have bitten off more than she can chew.
We first “meet” the freelancer, Claudia, the ghost writer herself, as a sort of phantom, recounting some of her own ghosts. We first experience Claudia in real flesh and blood as a willing participant in anonymous sex escapades with a suavely handsome man nearing middle age, West (Raj Sidhu). It’s fun and frivolous. They have been ‘seeing’ one another for a number of months. West wants to know normal things about Claudia, like a name, her chosen vocation and where she lives. She remains mysterious. Happy with the blissful anonymity that inflects their sensual fleshy game.
Meanwhile, an aging savvy Melbourne publisher, Robert (John Wood) has found his next bestseller. Having undertaken some dubious profiteering from a recent book about a famous sports celebrity he is desperately searching for his next big thing. It needs to be launched by Mothers Day - a perfect event for extravagant commercialism which apparently is also a great opportunity for book launches. It finds him. In the form a real life country living mother, Brihanna (Margaret Harvey) who has lost her infant child and knows the true identity of her child’s killer. She wants a best seller too, as a form of revenge and to set the record straight.
Brihanna elects for the same ghostwriter of the sports best seller. She feels that only Claudia can pen the truth of her own tragic lost child story. Robert, the publisher says no, “she is unreliable” he says, and so begins a cycle of intrigue and thrilling encounters. It so happens that Claudia is also Robert’s daughter, and we learn she is unreliable because she is ill, beleaguered with depression and an unidentified illness.
In one of the many twists of fate within this gripping gritty play, part thriller part whodunit, Claudia’s casual sex protégé is revealed to be a Public prosecutor. The very same Prosecutor attached to Brihanna’s missing child case. And so Claudia and West’s mutually exclusive private worlds and public worlds segue with intense, excruciating and brutal force. It’s great theatre.
More skeletons and demons are exorcised. The will to authenticity unravels. No secret is left unturned and with a cliffhanger result. Harvey delivers a mighty salt of the earth sanguine Brihanna, contrasted with the ennui of three inner city types struggling with their own search for truth and meaning. Outstanding ensemble performances and inspirational writing imbibed with haunting melancholy and an exacting mystique that earmarks Mueller as a fresh new voice of Australian Theatre. Hopefully, this play is one of many more commissions by MTC to encourage relevant breathtaking new Australian playwriting.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of
THE GHOST WRITER
by Ross Mueller
Venue: Fairfax Studio | the Arts Centre
Previews: From 2 March 2007
Dates: 7 March - 21 April 2007
Performance Schedule: Mon & Tue 6.30pm (5 & 6 Mar 8pm), Wed 1pm & 8pm (no mat 7 Mar), Thu & Fri 8pm (no perf 6 Apr), Sat 4pm & 8.30pm (3 Mar 2pm & 8pm)
Tickets: $16 - $72.10
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or visit www.mtc.com.au