Improv, Comedy, Women, Melbourne and everything in between.
When Tony Abbott was recently elected to be Australia’s 28th Prime Minister, I pondered, then tweeted: “So when do we get to hear Rupert Murdoch’s victory speech?”
Despite my joking demeanour, I firmly believed Rupert Murdoch deserved some recognition for manipulating his antics into Australian politics – not that we’re a stranger to any of this. Since subtlety isn’t exactly his speciality, Murdoch might as well have printed on The Daily Telegraph the next day: “We won” (see image below). His involvement with politicians on a global scale as a “king-maker” includes partnerships with Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Tony Blair. If you want to win an election, you need Murdoch on your side. It’s no secret that Rupert Murdoch controls a vast majority of Australia’s free press, and he’s on the record stating the purpose of his “journalism” is not to uphold the media’s role as the fourth estate, but to “entertain” and continue strong circulation of his newspapers.
The scariest thing about powerful media conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch is that it’s extremely difficult to publicly question their ethics, journalism and political involvement in the mass media, because, well, they control most of it. A review for Rupert has yet to be published in The Herald Sun, a subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp, despite their arts team having reviewed every other play MTC has had to offer this year. Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston told Crikey that the review will most likely never be published as the play is too “niche” for his readers’ tastes.
Thankfully, independent theatre is one of the last-standing mediums to question the motives of the media’s upper echelon.
MTC’s Rupert is a hilarious, observant, and sharply-written glimpse into the caricature of Rupert Murdoch, his global media empire, and his ruthlessness to get to the top. Written by Australian playwright David Williamson and directed by Lee Lewis, the production is driven by the well-written, fast-paced wit and the genius directing on a minimalist set. There are two Ruperts portrayed in Rupert: Present-day Rupert (played by an unrecognisable Sean O’Shea wearing remarkable prosthetics), and young Rupert (Guy Edmonds). In the ensemble, each playing multiple characters ranging from Wendi Deng to the Packer family, are Bert LaBonte, Marg Downey, HaiHa Le, Daniela Farinacci, Simon Gleeson, and Scott Sheridan.
Present-day Rupert narrates the play as he is “too old” to act out his own life story. He tells us he wants to set the story straight, so he hires an attractive young actor to play him in his younger years. Rupert spans his early days at Oxford through to the Leveson inquiry of 2011 and its shattering aftermath. Williamson captures Murdoch’s ruthlessness and drive in such a way that borders on undeniably honest to unbelievably satirical.
The production is self-aware in its delivery, aware of the current events (Rupert Murdoch’s tweets about Tony Abbott, the federal election, Murdoch’s split with Wendi Deng), and a powerful force to validate those who are already aware of Murdoch’s influence, and to educate those who are unaware. It is easily the best play MTC has been involved with in 2013 as Rupert is powerfully gripping, entertaining, and hilariously brave.
The responsibility of live theatre to maintain transparency when other mediums are compromised by mass-media ownership has never been more important.