THE CONSPIRATORS – Red Phoenix Theatre

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Reviewed by David Smith

November 2017

True to their charter, Rex Phoenix have once again successfully mounted a first-in-the-State production, this time the darkly satirical The Conspirators by Vaclav Havel.
 
Although Havel himself had initial reservations about the script, he later revised his opinion. Indeed, it is a strong script and powerfully examines the major issues inherent in a police state.  
 
Director Michael Eustice cast it well and brought out both the humour and the underlying cruelty of the authoritarian regime.
 
There were many affecting performances. Brant Eustice embodied evil itself as Colonel Moher, the Intelligence Chief. He commanded the stage and was a compelling force, especially convincing when bitingly humorous and manipulative. His doublespeak about revolution and freedom were of central importance. It was a successful device to use his bodyguards, chillingly played by Kyla Booth and Ruby Faith, to mirror and support Moher, particularly in his nastier moments.
 
Adrian Barnes was a fine foil as Major Ofir. He was a benign character and was most convincing when being duped or bullied. Tony Busch showed his experience and skill as the State Prosecutor Dykl, using voice, facial expression and timing to excellent effect. 
 
Emily Branford was a splendid Helga, by turns exploiting others and being outmanoeuvred by the power figures around her.  Others to impress were Russell Slater as the hapless Stein, Martha Lott as Edith, Nick Fagan as Aram and Steve Marvanek as the Prime Minister.
 
It was a compelling performance by a evenly balanced cast, set against an appropriately stark, threatening set.