A Broadcast Coup - Ensemble Theatre (NSW)
Written by Melanie Tait. Directed by Janine Watson.
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
Ensemble Theatre, Sydney
Supported by Sydney Festival
- 'Broadcast Coup' is a tale that shouldn't have to be told, but packs a darkly rueful comic punch -
There’s a whole lot of content out there now in the post-#MeToo universe – Morning Wars, She Said, Bombshell, The Assistant, even the latest hot property Tár, to name a few. So, to compete for eyeballs and attention you really need a point of difference, and a point to make beyond simply ‘man bad, woman good’. Melanie Tait’s A Broadcast Coup does a pretty good job of rendering this time-worn plot with a fresh angle on the characters and a killer plot twist that makes it all worthwhile.
It’s a drama with a darkly rueful comic punch, and director Janine Watson ensures there’s enough dynamism on stage to carry the heavy load of dialogue. The play’s structure is built around a series of fast-paced scenes that quickly establish the characters and their relationships. They are all two or three person scenes, with US-style rapid-fire dialogue that tested some of the cast. Thankfully the script retains that unique earthy Australian idiom that had the audience hanging on every word with gasps and chortles. Watson keeps the actors circling and prowling around the stage and each other like predators, as the power dynamic shifts from one to the other and back again.
Images by Prudence Upton
Sharon Millerchip as the loyal but exhausted and unappreciated executive producer to the star was stunning and gave us a fully realised gritty character. Ben Gerrard whom I have watched with joy for many years gave us another wonderfully comic but brittle and ultimately tragic character. Amber McMahon as Jez didn’t miss a beat or a sneer as the sharp, driven, and self-serving assassin. Alex King rendered well the brash, mouthy but ultimately fragile bravado of youth and TonyCogin’s smooth, clueless, and ruthless Mike formed the unpleasant pivot around which the women ebbed and flowed – although he did need to master his lines further.
The scenes alternate between plot and character exposition, as well as bubbles of social debate, whether it is between the older and younger woman, the younger woman and the older man, or the firebrand journalist and the established radio host. Whilst very interesting and highly relevant, these can bring a bit of a lag to the pacing – it’s almost as if they are mini-versions of the podcasts that the character of Jez is famous for. They soon pick up the pace however after each mini-debate and on we go to the dreadful and inevitable climax.
A simple set and lighting design (Veronique Benett and Matt Cox) were used to clear effect: two desks, a couple of iPads and omnipresent coffee keep cups captured the essence of a modern office, the giant screen with the program schedule and two irrefutable red LED clocks glowered over everything. Judicious blue and red lighting helped create a studio feel, shadows were carefully planned to create a sense of menace and spotlights were used to highlight the shocking moments and the climactic epiphany on which the plot turns. Clare Hennessy’s musical sting between the scenes in the style of the old Frontline helped set hearts racing with its sense of rushed newsroom urgency.
Tait says she wishes this play could be irrelevant but sadly thinks this conversation will be going on for some time. Unfortunately, it looks like she could be right. The character Mike bewails in the play that men just don’t know what to do anymore, that the goalposts keep shifting. As the play urges, they need to open their eyes, ears and intelligence to what’s going on around them, and learn.
CAST & CREATIVES
Playwright Melanie Tait
Director Janine Watson
Cast Tony Cogin Ben Gerrard Alex King Amber McMahon Sharon Millerchip
Understudies Troy Harrison Ella Prince
Voiceover Artists Bronte Bailey Chloe Bayliss Danielle Carter Olivia Inwood Ella Prince Anna Williamson
Set & Costume Designer Veronique Benett
Lighting Designer Matt Cox
Composer & Sound Designer Clare Hennessy
Video Associate Jessica Pizzinga
Stage Manager Lauren Tulloh
Costume Supervisor Evelyn Everaerts-Donaldson
Intimacy Coordinator Shondelle Pratt
2020 Season Dramaturgs Priscilla Jackman Sarah Odillo Maher
2020 Workshop Director Priscilla Jackman
Made possible by the generous support of Guy Reynolds AO & Jenny Reynolds and Diana & George Shirling.
SUPPORTED BY SYDNEY FESTIVAL