Tag Archives: A Broadcast Coup

A Broadcast Coup

3 Feb

I used to laugh at reviews that referenced theorists such as Michel Foucault. When the play being critiqued did not actually mention the famous philosopher, and he had most certainly not written the thing – he hadn’t even volunteered to do front of house one night – then a discussion of his ideas seemed somewhat out of place.

But sometimes we learn (and, in doing so, become the cause of mirth in other petty-minded individuals.)

One of Foucault’s most famous works is The History of Sexuality. It’s three volumes long, and being a theatre critic, beyond my attention span. Fortunately, the dynamite is lit in the title: the history of sexuality….. how can sex have a history? Isn’t sex just a biological thing, as fundamental, as universal and as immutable as, say, breathing. Except in terms of some deep evolutionary perspective, how can sex be said to change? But Foucault was pointing out that sex is contingent on other aspects of the human experience. And, for Foucault, the key other aspect is power.

Sex and power; this is playwright Melanie Tait’s subject matter, and she approaches it with sharp humour, vibrant characters, recognisable tensions and a captivating story (and absolutely none of my theoretical pomposity.)

Mike King is a much lauded radio presenter. After so long at the top, his manner is imperious (if not quite Nero, certainly not Marcus Aurelius). In a wonderful portrayal, Tony Cogin captures both Mike’s charisma and selfishness. Mike is faithfully served by Louise (Sharon Millerchip), who admires his talent and cleans up the mess. Mike makes life hell for Troy (Ben Gerrard), the station manager, dismissing him as a mere “bureaucrat”. But new assistant producer, Noa, presents a challenge. Alex King brings to the role a brilliant energy that presents the truth of youth: that the blaze of righteous passion is partly fuelled by naivete.

And then there’s Jez, played by Amber McMahon. I’d pay to hear McMahon read the phonebook (though I appreciate such tickets might be expensive due to the rarity of the prop.) Jez is an ex-colleague of Mike’s, now producing a red hot podcast exposing the mistreatment of women in the workplace.

Tait’s script works a thrilling tension: that power is an aphrodisiac, and that power determines what is deemed acceptable sexual behaviour.

Our society is trying to work this tension out….and if Foucault is right, and sexuality has a history, then change for the better is possible (at least until that better is again redefined.)  

Paul Gilchrist

A Broadcast Coup by Melanie Tait

at Ensemble until 4 March


Image by Prudence Upton