13 May 2011 WOS Rating: “Whichever side you take, you’re wrong” was the original tag line for Oleanna, David Mamet’s exploration of the power struggle between John, a university professor and Carol, a student who accuses him of sexual harassment.
Struggling with the complexity of the course, Carol turns to John for guidance but finds herself increasingly bewildered by his convoluted academic language and intellectual double-speak. His clumsy and patronising attempts to offer help are misinterpreted by the student who accuses him of assault and, eventually, rape.
Faced with a ruined career John’s frustration over the accusations made against him spills over into a climatic act of violence which leaves the audience in no doubt who is the ultimate victor.
Clare Foster’s Carol makes the tricky transition from vulnerable co-ed to arrogant accuser with complete conviction, yet Alistair McGowan as John somehow fails to convince as a creditable potential predator. He is just a little too diffident to make his hinted “darker side” seem credible, with little real hint of menace or genuine sexual power play. As a result he wins the sympathy of the audience diluting Mamet’s contention that “the corruption is on both sides” leaving us with little doubt as to who is the villain of the piece.
Matt Aston’s accomplished direction still made the by-play between the two protagonists acute in its accuracy and left many in the audience debating the issues raised by this still powerful play long after the house lights had gone up.
- Nick Brunger
Reviewed April 2011
Related Content Back to Central Homepage
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo... Titus Andronicus (RSC) This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p... : Britain's outdoor theatres Take Five With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... To Kill A Mockingbird Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...