A Prudent Man (Lab Kelpie)
May 11 – 12
“A Prudent Man” is a theatre piece quite unlike most others. More extended monologue than anything else, the award-winning dark and comical one-man political piece sees a well-groomed, confident-looking man enter to sit alone on stage as a bright light shines upon him. The simple staging gives the appearance of a television interview or perhaps it is as part of an investigation…. But what could he have done wrong?
The self-righteous, conservative politician (Lyall Brooks) is never named, however, there is a familiarity as to how he talks of his fondness for walking each day while wearing his green and gold tracksuit and his hail of cricket above all other sports. Less specifically, his sloganistic speech and ritualistic mannerisms are familiar too as he ranges from arms-wide-open rhetorical question honesty to frenetic dialogue and fist-pumping rage. The awareness is understandable given the speculative piece’s inspiration in real life political events; it uses real speeches and lines from politicians such as Donald Trump, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Margaret Thatcher, John Keys, Joe Hockey and John Howard just to name a few. There is a lot of comedy not just from these parallels, but from the man’s tangent talk and recall of flashbacks such as to beach-side holidays.
“Nobody wants to see that,” he says in reference to the few and far between public appearances of his now older wife, although the same could maybe be said of his base ideas. Essentially he is an unlikeable character, but Brooks gives him a touch of vulnerability too beneath the shifting goalposts of his increasingly bolder brags about personal fitness and insistence that he is just an ordinary and relatable bloke exposing basic values. Admonished by some for being anti-pc, he is certainly conservative in his anti-feminist and ‘go back from where you came from’ type sentiments expressed in build-up to ultimate explanation of what has happened to necessitate his interview/interrogation.
This is clearly a flawed, troubled man who, in desperately trying to justify his political beliefs, straddles the precarious line between protagonist and antagonist of his own story, which makes for a fascinating piece of theatre. Despite remaining seated for its duration, Brooks gives a resonate and compelling performance; the monologue is full of movement as goes from placid to animated in eventual recall of ‘the incident’. Repetition of figurative language is used to create rhythm and subtle lighting changes highlight escalating tension as his comfortable character crumbles with revelation of his truth.
The show, which is written and directed by Katy Warner, runs for fifty minutes, however, it feels like longer such is its provocation and political resonance in Australia and globally (the character himself is an amalgamation of recent history’s conservative politicians). Indeed, in asking what it means to be right, in more ways than one, it gives audience members much to ponder in relation to the modern political machine, which makes it a worthwhile dip into something a little different from the theatrical norm.