Robert Reid has taken the events surrounding the toppling of Kevin Rudd and made them into a play, the second of Five Pound Theatre's five week repertory season at The Owl and the Pussycat.
The actors come on to a minimalist set with desk lamps affixed to the wall and pull on red ties and jackets. You can tell immediately that the so-very-talented Keith Brockett's playing Rudd; he gives excellent Kevin. Tim Wotherspoon is superb as a variety of recognisable characters – if you know who they are in the first place, that is. Much of Because of Reasons was over my head, I'm an ignoramus when it comes to 'gumment' stuff, but anyone politically versed will have a lot of fun recognising personalities of the time including Lindsay Tanner, Mark Abib, David Koch, and Kerry O’Brien played by the inimitable and intense Wotherspoon. Lelda Kapsis did a turn as Graham Richardson and Penny Wong, and Brendan Hawke portrayed Bill Shorten and Wayne Swan. Freya Pragt played Julia Gillard, not channelled as succinctly or as recognisable as Rudd although I put that down to a decision to avoid tending towards caricature. Gillard does have such a distinctively flat tone of voice which you'd expect to hear more of. Pragt also does a vigorous Malcom Turnbull. They're a terrific team, here most elegantly directed by Petra Kalive in a tight piece that at times is moving and at others funny.
Robert Reid is a true theatre maker in that he engages fully with theatricality – a reason why his work is always worth seeing, even if, as here, he opts for story over a deeper engagement with character or psychology. Because of Reasons paints on a small canvas with a broad brush so, although it tells the story wittily using satisfying devices (a bit of lip-synching to pertinent songs in economical musical interludes, for instance) for me there isn't quite the emotional experience that I like in a play. I came away better informed but couldn't help (unfairly) comparing this short Aussie play to the longer This House from England where there was so much more time to get more involved in character. Yet there is emotion in Because of Reasons – the ending (which feels somewhat truncated) creates an eloquent image of the lonely position our first female MP found herself in as the target of such vicious squawkings. Some of the best bits are the small bits of acting where nothing is said, a quirk of an eyebrow, a pursed lip, a brushed away tear. The moment of defeat has an image of Brockett sitting in a small corner in the spotlight. You do end up feeling sorry for Rudd.
Five Pound Theatre presents
Because of Reasons
by Robert Reid
Directed by Petra Kalive
Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat | 34 Swan Street, Richmond (opposite Richmond Station)
Dates: November 20 – 23, 2013