Directed by Ella Caldwell Cast : Julia Hanna & Sarah Sutherland

Monument (Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre) – theatre review

An unexpected power play between an about to be anointed Prime Minister and a make-up artist readying her to take office is at the heart of Monument. Edith Aldridge (Sarah Sutherland) has been elected in a landslide to lead the nation. As the country’s youngest ever female PM, she is about assume the highest office in the land, taking over the role from her father, who died.

Photos by Jodie Hutchinson

Ms Aldridge is now just an hour and a half away from her big moment, namely taking to the stage to present her first address as Australia’s top dog. Twenty-two-year-old, self-confident David Jones make-up artist, Rosie (Julia Hanna), has been engaged by Ms Aldridge’s assistant to get the PM camera-ready. The pair is in a lush suite in a heritage-listed hotel.

While Rosie isn’t interested in party politics, she nevertheless injects next generation pragmatism into the ensuing conversation. In the process, she upends conventional wisdom that is the hallmark of Ms Aldridge’s entourage, which includes her trusted adviser and her husband. Due to unexpected circumstances, they are unable to be at her side. Talk between the PM and the make-up artist turns to not only how Ms Aldridge should look and dress, but what she should say.

The play unfolds in real time over 90 minutes (although opening night ran for more like 100 minutes), with twists aplenty, including a real humdinger near the end. It deals with personal issues, professional integrity and manufactured truth (otherwise known as lies). On that latter point, put another way, it relates to words and deeds repackaged because they will “sell” better that way.

The world premiere production by Emily Sheehan was developed as part of Red Stitch’s INK program that helps foster fresh Australian work. Monument presents the unexpected. It is both comedic and dramatic, with vulnerability the stock in trade. It is a commentary on fashion and conviction, on theatrics and authenticity. The play is a most enjoyable and entertaining, if slightly stretched, ride. I appreciated the power shifts, but felt the production would have benefited from being tightened. It could readily have lost 15 minutes.

The performances are delightful. Julia Hanna brings the freshness of youth to the fore. Rosie calls it as she sees it, without filters. Sarah Sutherland injects a world-wearier tone. Edith Aldridge is a political game player whose equilibrium is thrown. Sophie Woodward’s ostensibly pink set (think Barbie) is simple, but effective. The piece is complimented by Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting design and Danni Esposito’s composition and sound design. Directed by Ella Caldwell, Monument – playing at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until 3rd September, 2023 – has much going for it and is well worth a look.

Alex First

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