'Oleanna' By David Mamet

Oleanna is David Mamet’s unflinching and controversial portrayal of power relations as viewed through the prism of a potentially fraudulent allegation of sexual harassment. The play is a two-hander set solely in a small office room. John is a pompous, self-aggrandising and chauvinistic professor. Carol is a savvy, but not smart, radial student. And when Carol accuses John of harassment, the lines are drawn for a breathless battle of the sexes.Kevin Hanssen’s John is wonderful to watch. His arrogance, condescension and rising desperation are perfectly rendered and tailored in their intensity for the intimacy of the Vault. It’s a performance that takes it cue from Rex Harrison’s Henry Higgins in its mixture of camp theatricality, likeability and cruelty. By contrast, Renee Mostert’s Carol is a thin, quiet and ill-defined character. There’s no variation in her performance other than her volume and speed. She is unable to meet Hanssen’s intensity nor rise to the challenges Mamet’s text sets her. Carol’s motives are never clear leaving it to the actress to import an agenda into her performance. Mostert, however, seems to be marking her time on the stage, curiously distant from Carol’s mental and emotional state which is devastating to the effect of this kind of psychological thriller.The direction is inappropriate for the play. Heeten Bhagat seems to have made little effort to shape the piece. Dramatic beats pass unnoticed and the tension is left entirely to Hanssen’s performance. The blocking also undermines the realism of the text, with the actors breaking through the proscenium arch, hanging about just onstage of the wings and occasionally moving for no reason whatsoever. And the hyperrealism of Mametspeak is unfortunately lost due to artificial and poorly timed interruptions. One never feels truly engaged with the piece despite the fact it’s happening scarcely a few feet in front of you.These problems resonate deeply. This production posits the suggestion that ‘which ever side you take, you’re wrong’. Unfortunately, the difference of the performances means that it’s John the audience feels for. He’s now a man greatly maligned by a vindictive and stupid student because she struggles with the difficulty of his degree classes. The escalation in his rage and conduct towards Carol becomes unbelievable and left me wondering why he didn’t just shoot this irritating child and be done with her. It’s a genuine shame that this production of Oleanna doesn’t come together. The brilliance of the script and Hanssen’s strong performance are undercut by the weakness of Monstert’s Carol and Bhagat’s direction. In the same way that the struggle for power between John and Carol cannot be satisfactorily resolved, neither can the oppositions within this production.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Top Zimbabwean actors Kevin Hanssen (Acting Excellence Nomination - the Stage) and RenÈe Mostert explore power and responsibility in this riveting psychological drama: a professor who questionably pushes the limits of sexual harassment. 'Scorching Tragedy' (Guardian). www.pppzim.com

Most Popular See More

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Anything Goes

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets