It’s hard not to appreciate the work of a committed live theatre artist who writes and directs (and sometimes also often acts in his own productions), ensuring that the nuance, delivery and rhythm of each line is delivered with connecting cadence and expression.
In Monopoly however, Steven Hopley steps off the stage, and presents us with a superbly balanced cast to deliver his masterpiece of class distinction, relationship struggles and home-ownership impossibility, set amongst a group of friends undertaking their regular weekly challenge of playing the Monopoly board game.
With a writing style as relevant as Williamson in his heyday, Monopoly should come to be considered the parochial ‘2nd decade of the millennium’ study text for English and drama students in Australia. Quick witted, funny with a serious undertone, the players raise the stakes on this particular evening by wagering their possessions available in the real world.
The character leading the game at any one moment changes, twisting and turning with every roll of the dice. Paying taxes, going to jail, collecting $200… Every facet of the game is explored by Hopley to reflect the predisposition of capitalistic acquisition that underscores our society, along with the surprises that arrive from ‘left field’, emptying our bank accounts due to unexpected bills and payments, perhaps sending us bankrupt.
Surrounding all this however, is the desire to maintain the concept of comradeship. Without support and understanding, as well as tolerance of that which we may not desire, attempting to move ahead, progressing and even just surviving can easily seem to be impossible.
There’s an intimacy to Monopoly derived from both the venue and audience proximity to the players onstage. We are with them in the game, internally cheering-on our favourite most-relatable players, while holding back a vaudevillian ‘boo-hiss’ for the antagonist. The skill in playing the parts cannot be understated, as the dialogue intertwines within the board-game action, which Hopley himself insists ‘’must be performed exactly to the script”.
There are moments of discomfort in Monopoly, as Hopley deftly introduces conflict and tragedy, but always brings relief in the form of snappy one-liners. While obviously Sydney-centric, given the nature of Monopoly, elsewhere the play could be adapted and performed throughout the Monopoly-familiar world, as long as the actors display the obvious chemistry apparent in this current season.
Grab a pre-show pizza from next door before the show (or some sushi from the joint on the corner) and then enjoy a drink in the performance space as one of this city’s best (younger) playwrights brings you a most topical production that you will ponder all the way home.
Until Apr 25. El Rocco, 154 Brougham St, Kings Cross. $30+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.ticketebo.com.au
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