Remember when the advertising industry first introduced bottled water? Many thought it was a ridiculous idea that would never take off and I for one, refused to buy it on political/ethical grounds.
Ben Elton’s hil’air’ious satire Gasp! looks at a money hungry mining company which is devouring our resources one commodity at a time. When looking for the next big thing, they devise a genius plan to privatise the air we breathe, with the ‘Suck and Blow’ filtering machine. And if you can’t afford to pay then you just better learn to take fewer breaths.
Better known for his TV shows (The Young Ones, Blackadder), Ben Elton pens a revision of his original (and first professional play) Gasping to adapt it to the Australian industrial climate, by interweaving local politics, language, and pop culture references.
Directed by Wesley Enoch in collaboration with the Queensland Theatre Company and Western Australia’s Black Swan State Theatre Company, the cast includes Caroline Brazier, Lucy Goleby, Damon Lockwood, Greg McNeill and Steven Rooke.
While the satirical writing and onslaught of one-liners lent itself to ‘hammyness’ in the beginning, Greg McNeill was flawless as the mining magnate.
Damon Lockwood as the #3 sappy-turned-power hungry #2 corporate executive Philip, really came into his own in the second act, while Steven Rooke as Sandy (the former #2), was enjoyable to watch as always. And although my eyes tended to wander his way, it was the leggy, bossy babe of marketing that took it away every time. Caroline Brazier as high-powered marketing bull-dog, Kirsten, was exceptional. Delivered like a dry martini, Brazier added a bit of zest to the old spice in the men’s boardroom.
Lucy Goleby was a breath of fresh air (sorry, had to say it), as asthma suffering girlfriend Peggy, who provides the voice of the people; juxtaposing her ideals, costumes, and even house décor with the rest of the cast (and set design). Her scenes also provided a change in pace and respite from the highly charged energy of the executive world.
I love a high-gloss set, and QTC never fails to impress. Set in the polished tiled corporate office of Lockheart Industries (designed by Christina Smith) complete with the entire back wall being the skyscraper glass windows (insert optikal bloc’s always impressive media design to project the outside world), and Trent Suidgeest’s lighting design; the production had a crisp modern look with secondary sets efficiently sliding in and out of place.
Gasp! is an hilarious play with a tongue-in-cheek look at the very serious issue of natural resource management. Elton’s script is full of witty one-liners, but there were some fine lines between political incorrect satire and treading on sacred ground. And while the point is to provoke thought about certain societal issues, for me, it posed another type of question; “Can a joke in the theatre be taken too far?” Something to ponder… feel free to discuss.
Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company, Gasp! will run at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre till December 7.