A Prudent Man
Written and directed by Katy Warner
Presented by QUT Gardens Theatre
Season has ended
A Prudent Man is a one act play starring Lyall Brooks (right)as the conservative politician. The stage is set with only a chair, a large square spotlight directed at the chair and a table, beside the chair, on which sit a glass and a small carafe of water.
The play is cleverly written to encompass a number of conservative political leaders, without actually naming them. I recognised Tony Abbott, John Howard, and Barack Obama. The first lines of the play: “I stood, I stretched, at least I think I stretched”, led into a passionate speech segueing from one topic to the next and back again. The underlying premise appears to be a plea to the public – is our politician under the spotlight and being grilled for something he has done wrong? Can we actually find the truth in amongst the ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ he is presenting? Does he really know what the truth is himself?
Lyall Brooks’ portrayal is exceptionally good at keeping the audience’s attention, even though he never leaves the chair. His facial expressions and body language convey such a loud message alongside the words that he didn’t need to be moving around the stage at all. Our focus was on him and him alone as he drew us into his world, how he felt about always being in the spotlight, people being able to say what they like to his face on the street, while he is jogging in his tracksuit.
In his world of politics, he does the best for the country to make it a better place to live for everyone because he is the voice of 7 out of 10 people and 49.7% (which is almost a majority) agree with him and his policies. But he made an ‘honest mistake’ and then immediately believed that to be an oxymoron. Perhaps it is when it comes to politics.
His story always comes back to the little boy that he once was and how he fed a single seagull a hot chip one day, which became a riot of seagulls. And how his father made him watch as the smaller seagull got pecked to death by a larger seagull because he “started it’. I loved the metaphor of the flock of seagulls (or squabble as the politician called it) being the press of media or people clamouring at a politician.
I have always looked at seagulls differently and smiled to myself ever seeing the movie Finding Nemo, where they call ‘mine, mine, mine’ as they dive in for that chip or whatever it is they are after. They don’t seem to be too fussed about it. So long as one goes for it, they all do. Now I will always see a group of hecklers or the media pack like a flock of seagulls.
The politician tries to show us that he is an ordinary person just like us, there for our good, putting in place policies that we want, doing his best against terrorism, drought, refugees, closing borders, the navy, environment, economy, but underneath terrified of putting one step out of place or he will be crucified.
He toes the party line, jogd in a tracksuit, enjoys cricket and is married with a dog called Winston and two children because that is what is expected. He thinks that perhaps politics should be like cricket, everyone in their roles knowing what to do, a bat, a ball, a game played to a conclusion and a beer at the end. He loves the routine of routine.
This play takes a good poke at our conservative politicians as they try to balance on the fence between their party factions and live up to what the people are expecting. It is riveting and thought provoking — it certainly was the hot topic between my husband and I as we left the theatre. Do we find out what the honest mistake was at the end of the hour or are we left in the dark? Do we get sucked into his diatribe of verbiage ‘honestly delivered from the heart’ or do we come away as cynical as ever about the veracity of politicians and what they believe they stand for?
I really enjoyed this play. Lyall Brooks is an outstanding performer and portrays a desperate, ‘you have to love me cos you voted for me (didn’t you)’ politician striving to show a human face to combat the critics and stay in power.