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Unpeeling Layers of Hypocrisy

October 9, 2012
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Banana Republic is an extremely clever satire on modern economics, politics, media, and the moral confusion of Generation Y. It brings a light touch to these weighty topics with plenty of deft wordplay and sight gags.

The play focuses on the inhabitants of a Melbourne share-house: Julian (Scott Jackson), a fast-food worker with grandiose ambitions; Dill (Matt Furlani), a laid-off aquarium worker with a serious TV habit; and corporate law student Jen (Andi Snelling).

To impress her new boyfriend Geoff (Alexander Duncan), a radical political activist, Jen has begun dabbling in his alternative lifestyle, attending protests and visiting ‘collectives’. When Julian decides to call her bluff by turning their share-house into a commune, his stunt backfires in unexpected ways.

Playwright Anthony Noack* has a sharp eye for the inherent madness of society (‘So you’re going to invest money you don’t have in something you’ve never seen?’ says Jen when Dill starts playing the stock market using her credit card. ‘Isn’t that how it works?’ he counters), and a sharp ear for the absurdities of language – whether it takes the form of leftist rhetoric, capitalist jargon, or advertising/marketing spin.

Director Iris Gaillard takes the tiny stage at the Owl and the Pussycat and turns its compression into a virtue, making use of every cranny and corner. Set designer Avi Wanono’s inventive use of multimedia techniques, referencing sitcoms and reality television, gives the staging unexpected dimensions and depth, both visually and thematically.

The actors are all very well cast and have great chemistry together. Their focus and preparation were evident, although Duncan seemed a little less certain of his lines than the others (his characterisation of the sanctimonious Geoff, however, is spot-on). Snelling’s performance is slightly one-note in places – she spends a lot of time shrieking at her housemates – but beautifully nuanced in others, especially in her final speech. Furlani’s transformation from dole-bludger to plutocrat is pitch-perfect, and Jackson’s gleeful cynicism makes a lovely foil to Snelling’s escalating bewilderment.

Ultimately Noack is compassionate toward his characters, as they try to make sense of their lives and negotiate the contradictions of living an ethical life in a morally ambiguous world. Banana Republic is a tasty hour of laughs, with plenty of ideas to chew on once it’s over.

Banana Republic
VENUE
The Owl and the Pussycat
34 Swan St
Richmond, Victoria 3121
DATES: 26 Sept – 7 Oct
* Disclosure: Anthony and I went to RMIT together
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