Left – Marg Downey and Guy Edmonds. Cover – Guy Edmonds. Photos – Jeff Busby
Media mogul and enterprise unto himself, Rupert Murdoch makes for a fascinating subject in any medium. Born into the greatness of his father’s legacy, Rupert spent his life trying to achieve greater success than his father, Keith Murdoch, before him. There is no doubting the assets accumulated and the powerful influence of the Murdoch Empire yet does this one man band of wealth and power make for an entertaining night of theatre?
In short, No.
Rupert’s impressive story of conquering the Australian media landscape, English class system and ultimately Hollywood reads like a blockbuster film. However, David Williamson’s play falls flat as the plot becomes repetitive and the audience watches Murdoch wheel and deal himself into the most powerful position in media history.
Played with relish by Guy Edmonds, (Young Rupert) his energetic portrayal of the NewsCorp engineer is one of the most enjoyable things to watch in this lengthy retelling of Murdoch’s life.
Joined onstage by an ensemble cast, they are a mixed bag of artists that switch characters instantaneously, from former Prime Minister Bob Hawke to any member of the Murdoch clan. While this has great comedic effect, (in particular the scenes that involve the Packer family) it is quite often confusing for the audience as actors chop and change outfits, accents and characters while set pieces move them about the stage.
Marg Downey was a standout in her performance of matriarch Elizabeth Murdoch and former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, completely embodying these characters.
Murdoch’s career has spanned some 60 years, and as he has professed himself, is nowhere near over. It is this epic timeframe that lets the play down as Williamson has struggled to squeeze in all of Murdoch’s life events into this two-act play.
In what would have been more enjoyable as an hour-long cabaret, the two and half hours spent watching Murdoch make the same deals could use some serious workshopping and editing.
Sean O’Shea kept up the gags throughout and the cast were helped along by some of Murdoch’s more sensational headlines, yet they often struggled with the many character changes as accents slipped (or were forgotten completely).
This is a play that may appeal to those who lived through the early Murdoch years with a keen interest in the left/right wing political divide. However, just like the man himself, David Williamson’s play has its moments but in the end is simply too excessive.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by David Williamson
Director Lee Lewis
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
Dates: 24 August – 28 September 2013
Tickets: from $58