Coup d’Etat

10 Nov

Generally, I try not to call out at the theatre. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate that there are some rules: The actors get to talk. I don’t.

But there was a moment in Justin Fleming’s Coup d’Etat when I was sorely tempted to stop playing this game. Set in Malaysia at a time of legal crisis, and peopled by characters of various ethnicities, one scene features an argument about the way different cultures treat women. After accusing each other of wilful exaggeration and gross simplification, the characters suddenly all accept a wilful exaggeration and gross simplification.

This is not a criticism. Stick with me.

I’m a sucker for a good ending. This play has one. By way of explanation:

My Indulgent Analogy No. 1. Enter the last digit of the combination. The door of the safe finally swings open. The treasure inside is revealed. The treasure of Coup d’Etat is its powerful final image, encapsulating the idea explored by the play. That idea is laws [and all other human made tools, such as culture] are beautifully brave attempts to do the impossible – to impose structure on the wildness of life.

 My Indulgent Analogy No. 2. When the holiday cruise ship of childhood, SS Certainty, finally sinks, we are all left to swim. Some of us try our best to imagine we’re actually doing laps in a pool. There are lanes. We can always touch bottom. It may be dull, but there’s a purpose, and it’s good for us, and, anyway, soon we’ll be out of the water and in the change room having a warm shower. Others accept it’s more like swimming in the open ocean. We have no idea which direction to go. There are unfathomable depths below. The sharks are gathering, and if they are don’t take us, exhaustion or the cold inevitably will.

Director Suzanne Millar elicits engaging performances from the entire cast, especially Cat Martin’s perfectly pitched portrayal of a woman who carries the fear of the ocean swim.

So why do I like a good ending? They’re beautifully brave attempts to do the impossible. And why, at that moment of wilful exaggeration and gross simplification, didn’t I call out? Because Fleming knows what he’s doing. He’s reminding us there may not be a warm shower waiting after all.

 Veronica Kaye

Coup d’Etat

November 8 – 13, Parramatta Riverside Theatres.

November 14 – 21, NIDA Parade Playhouse.

One Response to “Coup d’Etat”

  1. Jude Fleming November 27, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Yes he is a brilliant writer isn’t he

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