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Anna James and Chad Richards in Push Up.

POSTED: 24 JUNE 2010

Push Up, by Roland Schimmelpfennig

Newtown Theatre, Newtown, Sydney | Until 10 July

Push Up investigates the interface between corporate and private life in an anonymous organization. A prologue and an epilogue are provided by two uniformed security employees (Michael Bucca and Stephanie Pick). In between are three duologues, all between a higher-ranking worker and a subordinate aspirant.

It quickly becomes apparent that the pairs of characters are really two sides of the same personality, often speaking the same lines. This creates an absorbing effect, with the same words taking on new meanings as they materialize from different mouths — people “are in the same room but see completely different things”.

The tension is created as a result of age or gender differences, and competition between people who are too much alike. At times this tension is impeded by the staccato dialogue and artifice of the over-used interior monologue.

But the dialogue is sharp and ultra-realistic, elucidating the motivations of the characters as well as the coercion and opportunities that they perceive in this power struggle.

The acting is totally convincing. The Hayes Gordon Repertory is committed to producing drama that examines human elements of conflict on social and political levels. Here we see six actors who partner for each confrontation to convey the parallel inner turmoil, ambition and sexual undertones of the corporate world.

Angelika (Ruth Caro) is cold and apparently dignified. She owns the business and lives with the never-seen Kramer, who runs it.

Angelika is interviewing Sabine (Tamar Cranswick), a young woman who has been refused promotion because Angelika is consumed by unfounded jealousy regarding her husband’s sexual infidelities. Their verbal exchange is openly hostile but punctuated by monologues telling us what each of them is thinking and revealing that they share the same routine and fears.

In the second combination, two up-and-coming executives, Robert (Chad Richards) and Patrizia (Anna James), thrash out a new advertisement for the company. Beneath the professional exchange there is a sexual undercurrent that is never fully realised because each one has no idea how to connect personally.

The final scene is between two men, an ageing widower, Hans (Christopher Lewis) and Frank (Lynden Jones), younger but also just as lonely. Hans and Frank are both hoping for the influential Delhi job that was to have been Sabine’s.

Tom Bannerman’s sparse, uncluttered set design adequately evokes the anonymous, global corporate organization — all glass and chrome and shadowy corridors.

There is some humour, but it is black, highlighting the ways in which private and business lives operate. The director, Nicole Selby, has given the cast defining body language to reveal the duplicity, dishonesty, fear and sense of inadequacy that is the subtext of this critique of modern capitalism.

This is an intelligent, timely, well crafted, well focused piece of theatre.

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