Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Two sides of a nightmare

Rob Phillips as John and Aimée Hall as Carol in David Mamet's Oleanna


Highbury Players

Highbury Theatre Centre Studio


THE novelist William S Burroughs once said that `Sometimes Paranoia's just having all the facts.'

If you view our new age of political correctness or the `Nanny State' as a blessing or a form of social madness, then Oleanna by David Mamet won't help settle your argument one way or the other.

Mamet once said that `Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better.' So did the Highbury Players rise to that, well let's examine the evidence?

A young student, Carol, struggling in her education meets alone with a university professor to discuss her failing grades.

She becomes increasingly distraught and in an effort to comfort her, he assures her verbally that things can be improved and lays a comforting arm around her shoulder.

 However later she interprets his entire actions differently and deems them inappropriate and so sets a course of action to a powerful, tragic ending.

Did she get it wrong, did we miss something? It's hard to judge as Mamet blatantly  avoids any real character history, so all you have is what you witness, the facts so far, and each of the two character's differing view of what transpired.

Handling the mammoth task of John the University Professor is Rob Phillips who effectively crumbles from indifferent confidence into despair and then rage over the course of the play. Looking every bit a Geoffrey Rush at times his descent to his final demise was nicely judged.


Aimée Hall in her first major role positively glowed as the student Carol, covering every emotion from the nervous dumfounded victim to manipulative teen, spitting bullets. Having played a good many comical roles locally, this production showcased her obvious dramatic range.

Holding the judgmental balance is director Sandra Haynes who skillfully allows the proceedings to unfold without any degree of preferential colour.

It's good to see The Highbury Players tackling such a complex piece and definitely worth seeing as it's a gripping piece of theatre that, in the studio space, puts you right in amongst the action.

Some critics suggest wrongly that this play is irrelevant to our times and we have moved on. However through the use of mobile phone video it's been proven on numerous occasions that in some cases, we have not and we all know that now , unlike back in the 90s, the consequences of acting inappropriately can end up on the world stage in a matter of seconds. 27-02-12

Jeff Grant

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate