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July 12th - July 17th
Theatre Royal Bath productions presents
JONATHAN SLINGER and ROSIE SHEEHY in
by David Mamet
Directed by Lucy Bailey
When David Mamet’s Oleanna opened nearly thirty years ago, it caused uproar amongst audiences from New York to London. Writing in the Guardian, Michael Billington stated that it “enflamed passions and divided partners.”
Set on an American campus, a seemingly innocuous conversation between a college professor and his female student warps into a nightmare which threatens to destroy them both, when she files a claim of sexual harassment against him. With its take on the corrosive excesses of political correctness and exploration of the use and abuse of language, this is the ultimate drama of pupil power and student revenge.
Addressing issues which are strikingly current, this is a fascinating opportunity to see this landmark play from the perspective of our #MeToo era, following its success in the Ustinov Studio at the end of last year.
Jonathan Slinger is one of the leading Shakespearean actors of his generation whose remarkable number of leading roles for the RSC includes Hamlet, Macbeth, Prospero and Malvolio. He starred in Plastic in the Ustinov Studio and in the West End transfer of Trouble in Mind.
Rosie Sheehy‘s credits include the title role in King John for the RSC; The Whale in the Ustinov Studio and Uncle Vanya, for which she won the Best Female Performance in the English Language at the Wales Theatre Awards 2018.
David Mamet is one of the most distinctive voices in stage and film writing today. His multi award-winning plays include Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow and American Buffalo.
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour 20 minutes, no interval.
★★★★★ “A brilliant revival of a masterpiece… this is theatre at its most riveting, sensationally performed by its actors” Guardian
★★★★★ “Mamet’s masterpiece… theatre is seldom this riveting or timely” Sunday Times
★★★★★ “Rosie Sheehy… this year’s stand out performance” Metro
★★★★ “Oleanna looks like the show of the year… Jonathan Slinger is magnificent” Daily Telegraph
Production photos by Nobby Clark
Performances taking place before July 19th will be sold at half capacity in line with Government guidelines. Thereafter, performances may initially be sold at half capacity in case restrictions remain, although capacities may increase if not. Prevailing Government guidance on face coverings and distancing will be observed and enhanced cleaning routines will remain in place.
Please read our Covid-19 Safety Guidelines prior to booking.
I had only quickly glanced at the advert before booking (so did not go in with any preconceptions).
The only thing I needed to know and didn’t was that there was no interval!
The writing was well crafted. It is finely balanced with the changing balance of power and confidence between the teacher and student.
It was written after the awakening of student movements but before the woke generation, from this historic position it provides the thoughtful plenty of opportunities for consideration.
The actors did well with their changing roles. As regular theatre goers we find it strange why the theatre is packed sometimes only to discover it is probably because an actor has appeared on TV.
The audience was strangely quiet between acts (as between movements in classical music). Almost as disconcerting as the applause that breaks out when a famous actor appears on stage.
It was one of the best evenings of theatre I have seen in my 40+ years of attendance and is proof that there is great value outside the safe productions. Do not miss this opportunity.
Choice Radio Worcester
Following on from last week's Copenhagen, Theatre Royal Bath Productions presents another small-scale play, this time Oleanna, a two-hander from David Mamet. And although it was written back in 1992, it has a very current and recurring theme - that of a perceived inappropriate relationship between two people, in this case tutor and student. The pedigree of the play is hardly in doubt, given that its first UK performance was directed by Harold Pinter and starred David Suchet and Lia Williams. In this production, the professor, who is attempting to get tenure at the college where he has been teaching, is played by Jonathan Slinger and his student, who raises the ethical and moral questions about his behaviour, by Rosie Sheehy.
It is a three act play (no interval) which starts innocently enough with John talking with Carol about the problems which she has with understanding the basic concepts of the course, the contents of which include a book written by John himself. He tries to understand her concerns but is repeatedly interrupted by phone calls about his pending house purchase (which depends on a successful tenure). By Act Two, things have deteriorated badly as Carol has now filed a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment using her diary of his sexist remarks as proof. John does not understand how he has in any way offended her and, after asking her to meet him to discuss this before the hearing, then attempts to stop her leaving. Come Act Three, and he has been found guilty as charged. Worse, he finds out that the charges now include attempted rape. Interrupted by more phone calls from his wife, Carol demands that he does not refer to his wife as "baby". At this point, he snaps. And if you thought the end of Act Two was unexpected and violent, Act Three ends with a truly shocking - and superbly acted - finale.
You can clearly see the development of the characters across the three acts and indeed the stark role reversal. Slinger portrays John as an older professor looking to help a younger student (as is typically the age relation in teaching). Or you could determine him already, as Carol evidently has, to be a sexual predator. Sheehy's Carol is at this point rather naïve, demanding that he uses simple words to explain what he referring to as she does not understand him. Once she has made the accusations against him, labelling him as "pornographic", John begins to believe that he has actually over stepped the mark. But is there room to negotiate? She is in total command by the final scene, until the point at which rage and physical strength takes over. The change in her character does seem rather extreme though, seemingly a different person in both stature and dress from what we had seen earlier, and she is keen to turn the screw as far as it will turn and a little bit further.
Both actors play their parts very well, with the necessary American accents, and convincingly portray an early example of the "Me too" movement decades before it had been identified as such.
With its themes of sexism, class and privilege, the inclusion of such a dramatic ending means that it is certainly a play which will stay long in the memory.