Theatre Tours International Ltd
Theatre Tours International Ltd
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To: Oleanna
  • Written by David Mamet
  • Performed by Guy Masterson and Beth Fitzgerald
  • Directed by Emma Lucia
  • Premiered at Assembly Rooms Edinburgh 2002
  • Full UK Tour September 02 - February 03

Oleanna, Mamet's most controversial and celebrated work, split audiences on Broadway, in the West End, and around the world. In 2002, in the hands of two Edinburgh Festival Best Actor Award winners, the play brutally demonstrated its relevance in contemporary Britain.

An unconventional university professor tries to assist a struggling student who has come to him for help. The encounter soon sours and both suddenly find themselves grappling with the opposing needs of the other...

Opinions collide, resulting in an epic power struggle born of seemingly trivial beginnings, crashing together the ideals of free speech with invasive political correctness. The result is explosive.

Oleanna is theatrical dynamite. It will challenge everyone. Arguments will erupt in the bar. It is a truly divisive work guaranteed to elicit debate and emotive response. Whoever you side with, it might be easier to say you're wrong.

Fo the first time with Mamet's approval, the play was performed in British dialects with british alternatives replacing Americanisms. The result proved that Mamet's distinctive dialogue does not have to be performed in American.

"This, you realise, is the play about political correctness... Emma Lucia has given it further impetus by relocating the action to an English university, which reveals how much British academic institutions have tried to magic away concrete political problems by changing the way we talk about them... I feel the sympathies of Lucia's production lie with Guy Masterson's well-crafted tutor - but I know others will argue differently... More than most interpretations, this one finds some degree of hope in the play." (Tim Abrahams - The Sunday Herald, 04/08/02)

"Guy Masterson's production gains a deeper relevance and forces an examination of social hierarchy and sexism in our own institutions. In the role of the vain lecturer, Masterson drives home the infuriating patronising manner of self-satisfied privilege while Beth Fitzgerald asserts an equally accomplished performance as the right-on student set on challenging the system. Forming an explosive combination, this proves provocative, divisive theatre." (Catherine Bromley - The List, 08/08/02)

"At its best the play can inspire audiences to side with either character in equal proportions and, guided by director Emma Lucia, Masterson and Fitzgerald have accomplished this ideal. He plays the professor sympathetically, emphasising the well-meaning liberalism that accompanies his self-blindness... She brings a sometimes frightening passion to her character's confident zeal... One of the most emotionally intense and challenging hours on the Fringe." (Gerald Berkowitz - The Stage, 09/08/02)

"I'm not sure how I've managed not to see this play by David Mamet before now given it's been around for 10 years, however that made this production all the more powerful. The story of John (Guy Masterson), a university lecturer who is destroyed by Carol (Beth Fitzgerald), a not particularly bright yet manipulative student. There was a point early in the show where John says "You don't have to take notes you can just listen". I had to agree, put my notebook on the floor, and sat there spellbound. Chatting to someone before heading off to see the show he told me that he had spoken to Masterson the day before and he was happy with the show. Happy? He should be ecstatic, as should director Emma Lucia who having taken two brilliant actors and equipped them only with two chairs, two bags, and a mobile phone on the huge stage of the Assembly Rooms' Ballroom could not have done a better job. It is a measure of great theatre that one becomes so engrossed one loses all sense of time. I thought this finished after 20 minutes until I checked my watch and found I'd been there for the best part of 90 minutes." (Martin Powell, Scotsgay Magazine, 09/08/02)

"As soon as Masterson and the excellent Beth Fitzgerald open their mouths, one knows this is going to be a new take on a modern classic... Masterson's superbly acted professor shifts between self-satisfied posturing and human angst... Fitzgerald drags us into the piece as comprehensively as she pulls her needless adversary down." (Mark Brown - Scotland on Sunday, 11 August 2002)

"Fitzgerald and Masterson put in electric performances. Sparks fly as they argue, with the tension becoming so intense it will have you wriggling in your seat... This is a superb production that's guaranteed to make you think." (Paul Rhodes - The Scotsman, 15 August 2002)

"Does David Mamet translate to a UK context? In the hands of Guy Masterson and Beth Fitzgerald, it sure does... The believable nightmare flipside to the dream fantasy that is Educating Rita - and it is as well acted as you would expect of two regular deliverers on the Fringe... Does not produce a one-sided reading... In these hands it is timeless. Worringly so." (Keith Bruce - The Herald, 15/08/02)

"Across a decade and from one continent to another, the play has lost none of its power. In fact, it seems to work even better in this context. Particularly with two fine performances from Beth Fitzgerald and Guy Masterson... In a succession of personal tutorials that descend into vitriolic verbal exchanges, she demonstrates that he is not merely wrong, but that he is wrong because everyone else is on her side... A verbal battle that is outrageous in its intensity and outcome." (Thom Dibdin - Edinburgh Evening News, 15/08/02)

"A very good production... Guy Masterson and Beth Fitzgerald give excellent performances in this exploration of gender and power." (Philip Fisher - British Theatre Guide, 20/08/02)

"A fine rendering of this acclaimed and much argued over play. Beth Fitzgerald seethes with anger and confusion... Masterson prowls around the stage expressing his exasperation with Carol in sweat, spray and anger... With education in crisis, Oleanna looks fresh... As the stunned audience filed out of the Assembly Ballroom, the debate about who was right and who was wrong had begun and it's impossible not to have an opinion." (Max Blinkhorn - edinburghguide.com, 12/08/02)

"Everybody should experience the shock of this play." (Sunday Times)

"Oleanna was one of the most stimulating experiences I've had in a theater" (Roger Ebert)

"Mamet's clenched fist to the gut - and intellect - a vicious and timely riff on sexual harassment and political correctness" (New Yorker)

"There can be no tougher or more unflinching play than Oleanna" (Harold Pinter)Top of page