Using actual transcripts and wiretaps from the ICAC hearings into Wollongong Council lends THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE a gripping sense of immediacy. The corruption saga had a heady mix of bribes, sex, developers, ICAC impersonators and threats of violence. We are voyeuristically entertained with numerous scenarios from this tawdry media sensation.
This innovative production by Version 1.0 and Merrigong Theatre Company makes use of a wonderful set and video presentations. The audience is greeted by large blocks of colour dominating the rear of the stage and during the play these alternate between actual video footage and cartoon like representations of Wollongong streetscapes, greenfield sites and proposed developments. Sean Bacon’s visuals are quite stunning. The use of large plastic toy blocks is a colourful and clever device.
The actors play various characters and as they are often reciting ICAC transcripts it is very clear who they are portraying. “Mr Vellar, can you explain to the court…..etc”. There are also video screens further explaining who is speaking and in what particular context. Occasionally the actors will address the audience.
There is an opening address by Russell Kiefel explaining that these type of events could only happen in Wollongong, until the other actors, Angela Bauer, Jane Phegan, Kym Vercoe and Arky Michael chime in with “or Port MacQuarie, or (very topically) Ryde, or Randwick, or Burwood.” It is tacitly conceded that corruption in local government is widespread.
The performances are consistently strong and engaging. Kym Vercoe’s performance as Beth Morgan, the town planner who had sexual relations with two of the developers, starts out as confident and enjoying the expensive gifts she receives for assisting with planning applications before deteriorating into a scared and nervous wreck. Arky Michael’s performance as corrupt developer Frank Vellar captures the hubris and confidence of such a colourful character. Russell Kiefel’s Rod Oxley, General Manager of Council, has the audience almost believing that his unlawful practices were really in the best interests of Wollongong.
There are many laughs in this play, mostly from the outrageous behaviour of the main protagonists. At other times the mood is dark and threatening as the criminals exert menace and pressure on the corrupt and vulnerable.
THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE runs until July 21 at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose.