Flying Penguin Productions Space Theatre  17-26 November

Oleanna is a perfect polyphony of power play and polemics. 

The tight script in the hands ot the two actors, Georgia Laity and Renato Musolino holds the audience for one and a half hours, while the music by Quentin Grant creates a subtle and effective complement to the action, as does the moments of silence. The simple setting provides an effective comment on the power struggle between Carol and John. Much is expressed in the position of the chairs or who chooses to sit on the desk!

This power struggle goes well beyond the situation between the two characters, Carol and John. It stretches out to encompass the nature of reality, of education and honest relationships between people. Are we only safe within our tightly defined social clan?

The play begins with young university student who goes to see her Professor as she is struggling with the course, claiming that she has doing everything she has been told to do, even to reading the book he has written, but understands nothing. Her distress is palpable, as she becomes distraught.

The professor attempts to find a way to help her;  a way which turns into rambling stories about himself. His counselling proves ineffective. The constant ringing of the phone, which he always answers, cuts across any real rapport.


Mamet has written a script which says a great deal in a few words. The young insecure student suddenly becomes strident and confident as ‘the group’ have advised and encouraged her to protest. We can picture that whole scene without it being acted out. 

The professor’s main concern about himself, the house he is trying to buy and protecting his career are revealed by the disjointed responses on the telephone, even to the way he speaks with a different tone of voice.

I wondered, when the play began, how the tension and interest could be sustained for the duration, with only very short breaks between scenes, and no interval. By the final scene I was so caught up in it all that I forgot to breathe.

Mamet’s skill becomes apparent as the power turned, along with the rearrangement of the set, the changed body language and the two phrases ‘I don’t understand’ and ‘I know that you are angry’, which were recurring themes, taken up at different times by either character. The ending will leave you with more questions that answers, and that makes great theatre.

David Mealor has given it strong direction, being well served by his two actors, and supported by the production team. To quote the Director’s Notes:

I can think of no better play to be exploring and presenting at this moment in the world.

Help Support 5mbs

We have a fantastic team of members and volunteers at 5mbs, with many opportunities for more. Check out the various ways you can help support the passionate team at 5mbs

Subscribe for updates

Sign up to receive program guides, articles, and event updates