Mark Ravenhill: Product
  • By Kyung Oh
  • |
  • 19th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

We’re in the office of a movie producer. Someone has sent in an incredibly appalling script and a keen producer is pitching it to an A-list movie star. Following the life of a western woman who falls in love with a Muslim jihadist, the script (Muhammad and Me) is a poor assemblage of cliched movie-making tropes, containing a litany of offensive, bigoted thoughts. We are invited to laugh at the producer’s unawareness of how horrendous the script is that she so adamantly endorses to the actress.

A very good comedy production of a funny script.

Olivia Poulet gives a remarkable performance as the producer in this one-woman play. She is constantly giving conspiratorial winks as asides while describing the script, as if to say, “are you getting this? can you believe how good it is?” Exhibiting a high level of vanity as well as a deep-seated sexual frustration, the producer makes it more and more obvious that she herself has written this script as a sort of wet-dream and created the heroine character as someone to live through vicariously. Robert Shaw has directed this performance very well to highlight how disastrously oblivious the producer is. There are some fine choices for sound and lighting through various stages: cheesy music plays in the background when the producer is describing the especially cringeworthy love scenes between the heroine and the jihadist. In her complacency, Poulet’s character at times shows glimpses of David Brent from The Office.

The script is funny and the audience were laughing consistently throughout the show, but towards the later parts of the play, the engine behind the comedy becomes a bit repetitive. The clumsiness behind the writer of ‘Muhammad and Me’ and the vacuousness of the heroine (as well as the producer) become predictable after a while. Furthermore, there are times when it feels like the script, only nine years old, hasn’t aged very well. Much of the comedy relies on having a preposterous character who, in the wake of 9/11, has acquired ignorant, bigoted view points towards Muslims; it is at times difficult to believe a producer can be so uninformed in today’s world.

Overall though, Olivia Poulet gives an excellent performance, engaging throughout the show. It’s a very good comedy production of a funny script.

Reviews by Kyung Oh

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The Blurb

Ravenhill vs Hollywood. Torrid scenes of passion, the dark spectre of international terrorism and big, big explosions. Right now, Julia is a hot young starlet. But has Leah (Olivia Poulet: The Thick Of It; In The Loop; Outnumbered) got the perfect script to save her from B-movie hell? From the critically acclaimed writer of Shopping and F*cking, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Clap’s Molly House. Product premiered at the Traverse in 2005, performed by Mark Ravenhill himself; this is the first revival. ‘A withering satire on the world of entertainment’ (Herald).

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