A Prudent Man
Review by Cicely Binford
Some politicians are just like actors: they know how to “turn it on” when necessary, they have practiced smiles, rehearsed talking points, and a hundred ways to dodge bullets with just a little improvisation. What is the nature of a politician? What is their character composed of: narcissism, competitiveness, altruism, loyalty, foolishness, courage – and in what portions? Lab Kelpie presents a disturbed portrait of a right-wing politician with A Prudent Man, written by Katy Warner and performed by Lyall Brooks.
Warner’s politician is a tricky as they come. He’s Australian, but there are echoes of Trump and Nixon; he shares with them that belief that they are men above the law, but who can’t escape that persistent insecurity that becomes their achilles heel. Brooks opens the show with a plastic smile that might mean war in the primate world – aggressive, hard, strained. He’s being questioned, interviewed or cross-examined (it’s not actually essential to know who’s putting him under scrutiny), and as he attemps to present his account of what happened on the night of…an incident, the cracks in his armour shoot through at an alarming rate.
As he tries to recount the incident (which is an incredibly difficult task for him), we watch his facade crumble to reveal a truly ugly man who has little motivation to do anything other than to save his own skin. Brooks never leaves his seat for the entire monologue, though he does squirm considerably in his chair throughout. The man can’t stay on track, and we get the feeling that he has buried these memories somewhere at the end of a labyrinthine obstacle course in his mind. There’s simply no getting a straight answer out of him.
If anything, the piece suffers from being too timely, too on point; we’re through the looking glass where political satire can’t compete with the farcical reality of our current political climate, and what we see on stage in A Prudent Man seems almost less ridiculous than what we see in the media. But this is of course no fault of the production’s, and though it may be too close for comfort, the performance and the script are finely wrought, meaty and incisive. We never do get a clear picture of what this ‘prudent’ man has done, but we understand exactly what he’s capable of.
A Prudent Man runs until 6 Feb at The Shambles. For tickets and more information, visit the Fringe World website here.