A story of masterful power shifts, David Mamet’s play Oleanna transports us to the conversations between a professor and his student, Carol, raising questions about our contemporary class system and its inevitable correlation with those of authority in all sectors.
John, played by Charlie L, is introduced as a composed and pretentious upper-class white man in the process of buying a new house near his son’s private school. However, as the play progresses and the allegations against him are revealed, his character begins to cleverly unravel, from the way he is dressed and occasional fluctuations in pitch, all the way to subtle changes in the lighting. All of these aspects were brilliantly directed by Jamie C and Toby T, adding to the overall performance and flow of the play.
Meanwhile, Carol, played by Ben H, first appeared to be a jittery and naïve young girl, who was just seeking help from her professor, until he begins to get a little too comfortable with her – almost in a game of cat and mouse. This was, again, very clearly portrayed through their deliberate manoeuvring around the set and the dominant levels John placed himself in: always above and close to Carol. When she reports him for ‘flirting’ with the entire student body, and eventually rape and battery, all of a sudden, their roles are switched. Her thin cardigan is replaced with a black leather bomber jacket and her voice loses its stutter. She reminds him that through a single action, no matter who he is and where he came from, he no longer has the power.
The last moments of the performance led to a dramatic climax. Carol offers John a deal for her silence, making him furious. Her final criticism causes him to fly into a violent rage and he launches an attack that was staged dramatically utilising complex choreography. In the finale, they stand facing each other having both succumbed to the abuse of power that society’s judicial, cultural and educational systems are capable of creating.
Congratulations must go to all the boys involved for producing such a raw and successful piece, with complex and challenging topic matter handled in a sensitive and mature manner.