FRINGE REVIEW: Lyall Brooks Gives a Tour de Force Performance in A Prudent Man
One man sitting on a chair having a raving, stream of consciousness monologue for 50 minutes shouldn’t be this intriguing. But Lyall Brooks is no ordinary actor. He instinctively knows when to project, to pause, to stutter to maximum effect. His body language is slightly jarring. In short, he's a perfect embodiment of someone who thinks they’re just all that.
A Prudent Man works so effectively as it relies upon the intelligence of its audience. This isn’t, say, Sammy J’s Playground Politics; it never slaps you in the face with any sort of moral (or even story), but trusts the viewers to understand by sprinkling snippets of information to piece together. This allows the 50 minutes to pass by in a flash as we put our brains into overdrive, trying to unpack the gradually unfurling story with the details we are provided. Every now and then, the script sneaks in references to contemporary events or throws in the sort of eye-rolling political jargon we’ve grown accustomed to, to the point where phrases like “our values” lose all meaning.
The whole story has a fantastical edge to it, and this led to perhaps my only gripe with the show. While brilliantly performed and nonetheless powerful, one was left with a vague sense of detachment from the real world, with the eventual “reveal” of the story’s end (without spoiling anything) feeling a bit off the mark. While it cleverly works in contemporary events, it just seemed a bit of a stretch of one’s imagination at that point. Then again, this is partly the whole idea- the Prudent Man is never specific enough to explicitly call to mind any exact figures, and the whole political world is constructed in the play as something just beyond the understanding and grasp of the common person’s life. Despite how often he announced himself as the “Voice” of the people, it’s clear that he (and, by extension, all politicians) really has no idea of what life for the average Australian is really like.
After witnessing the play unfold, it’s evident why it's achieved such acclaim and why all the shows have sold out. Those who were lucky enough to get a ticket are in for a treat, with its ingenious mix of humour and confrontation. It’s sure to be entertaining for anyone regardless of political persuasion, minus the self-righteousness and political pandering that can often sour similar political pieces. This is a cleverly written and performed play that never tells you what to think, but gives you a lot to think about.