Before curtain up, MTC Artistic Director & CEO Brett Sheehy and Executive Director & Co-CEO Virginia Lovett reflected that it had been exactly twelve months to the day since the company had shared an opening night with an audience. At curtain down came recognition of another time marker; staging this work at this very moment felt like an act of deliberate and pertinent precision.
An archetypal affair. Jon, a prize-winning novelist lecturing creative writing at a university. Annie, a talented, promising young woman, a fan of Jon’s work and his student. Power and morality can be tricky concepts to navigate but when the parties are clear about their intentions and they understand their roles then surely, it’s less murky – isn’t it?
This play is that guest at your dinner party who, with one potent observation, generates such discomfort that all assembled clamber for composure after the resonating truth has been spoken. Not till the play’s conclusion, and maybe not even until our discussions afterwards, do we check ourselves for the comments and behaviour we’ve waived through.
Did you see that coming? Now I get it. #Me too!
The strength of Hannah Moscovitch’s work is to add additional momentum to the conversations we absolutely need to be having. We are tested here, lured into laughing at lewd banter like a complicit bystander at the office water cooler while recognising the deserved sting of self-flagellation for doing so when the narrative finally twists.
Dan Spielman as Jon genuinely courts our favour with a sufficient measure of self-loathing and deprecation. Charming and seductive, Spielman shares much of the plays witty dialogue directly with us, and his impeccable timing and nod to the larrikin lets us in and plays us well. Middle age men deserve to play out their crisis – don’t they?
Izabella Yena as Annie journeys naiveite, vulnerability and reflective comprehension of her younger choices. Blurred lines and a wavering perspective, omnipresent and objectified on stage and off, this is a character and performance made sense of and appreciated most at conclusion.
Sleaze within the entertainment industry was the spring from which the movement to call it out sprung and the MTC is right to get on board as a commentator. There is of course justification in asking if we are indeed seeing something original here given we’re reading about this stuff right now, but Director Petra Kalive has deeply mined this layered work and extracted something worthy that has, sadly, been amplified by current circumstances louder than she could ever have anticipated.
This is uncomfortable important territory. Button pushing and triggering no matter how close we may have been to similar scenarios in our own lives.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes
by Hannah Moscovitch
Director Petra Kalive
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner VIC
Dates: 6 March — 1 April 2021