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Sydney Review- A Broadcast Coup: outstanding new play

By Paul Kiely

A Broadcast Coup

By Melanie Tait

Directed by Janine Watson

An Ensemble Theatre Production

Ensemble Theatre

78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli

Season: 26 January – 4 March 2023. Bookings:

Duration: 100 minutes (No interval)

A fly-on-the-wall expose of the world of talk-back radio is the basis of Melanie Tait’s outstanding new play ‘A Broadcast Coup’. It is set almost entirely in the studios of Australia’s largest public broadcaster (conspicuously nameless). The play provides the impression of a workplace which runs by default and is dominated by individuals whose egos are impenetrable.

In their world, sexism, misogyny, favouritism, bullying, insults, distrust and intimidation reign supreme. In our world, we call it ‘professional journalism.’ However, in the theatre world, ‘A Broadcast Coup’ is called great entertainment!

The central creature, sorry, character, is Mike King (played frighteningly well by Tony Cogin). He is the poster boy of morning talk back radio. Mike has just returned from a junket meditation course in a luxury resort in Fiji. His alpha male traits are balanced somewhat by his charisma, so he is best described as a ‘likable rogue’. Once you get to know him, you just put up with him. After all, he does have consistently high audience share and impressive twitter followers. You may even turn an eye from his womanising track record of young female producers.

One man who does not turn an eye is the station manager Troy. In contrast to Mike, Troy is a sensitive new-age guy, constantly reminding Mike not to talk about penises and vaginas in the workplace. He worries that Mike’s extravagant spending will get them grilled by the Senate Estimates Committee. Troy’s main gripe is Mike’s contrary attitude to playing the required three station promo’s per hour during his show. It's a bit like ‘Ray Hadley meets Frasier’. Actor Ben Gerrard portrays Troy and his idiosyncrasies with class.

Holding the ‘Mike King Show’ together is long term Executive Producer Louise, wonderfully performed by Sharon Millerchip. Louise is the quintessential hard worker – dedicated, efficient and loyal. She has a daughter suffering anxiety and depression. Mike even gave her caring advice. Louise feels that her loyalty and friendship is not returned. She even admits “I use his credit card to buy my own Christmas present from him.”

Newly arrived Producer Noa is Mike’s antithesis. The 24-year-old represents the new wave of feminism which Mike loves to poke. Confident and brash; outspoken but naive. Her lack of real-world experience could compromise her. Alex King plays the role of Noa perfectly.

The protagonist in all this drama is Jez, played with zest by Amber McMahon. Having worked for Mike in the past, she knows all his secrets and shortcomings. Jez has become the countries number one podcaster and is now on a quest to unseat Mike from his media throne. She has built quite a dossier on him, but just needs the help of one or two more players.

In a strange way, it is unfortunate that Melanie Tait’s plot for ‘A Broadcast Coup’ is so believable and realistic. As a radio listener, one would hope that the studios of national broadcasters were occupied by well-intentioned, rational and balanced adults. That is why it is awkward to label this production. Certainly, under the able direction of Janine Watson, the plays elements of drama and comedy excel. Cast is outstanding. Dialogue is sharp, fast and perfectly delivered. The set, lighting, sound and costumes are all up to the usual high standards of the Ensemble.

But for me, ‘A Broadcast Coup’ is a cry of distress. It’s content will resonate with many who have suffered intimidation, harassment, belittling and embarrassment at the hands of loud workplace bullies.

‘A Broadcast Coup’ is great Australian and timely playwriting. Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Certainly, one not to miss!


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