How to Rule the World. By Nakkiah Lui. Directed by Paige Rattray. Sydney Theatre Company. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. April 3 to April 6. canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.
Many people talk about the inadequate representation of minorities in Parliament, but few do anything about it. In Nakkiah Lui's new comedy, How to Rule the World, they do - but it doesn't quite turn out as they expected.
Lui's play - her first to come to the Playhouse since Black is the New White last year - will be in Canberra during budget week, aptly enough.
It starts off with three scheming political insiders bemoaning their exclusion from power, and hatching a plan.
Indigenous Vic (Lui), Korean-Australian Zaza (Michelle Lim Davidson) and Pacific Islander Chris (Anthony Taufa) want to change politics in Australia. Most immediately, they want to ensure that the racially discriminatory Sovereign Territory Bill, put up by the conservative government, does not become law.
They devise a plan to find a likeable white man they can get elected to the volatile Senate as an independent. Through some manoeuvring and preference whispering, they will have him hold the balance of power where he will do their bidding. What could possibly go wrong?
Hamish Michael plays Lewis Lewis, the unemployed actor the trio settle on after auditions to be the perfect patsy for their purposes.
Michael says it's "an extraordinary role".
"He's one of the stupidest people in the world," he says, adding it takes a lot of effort to play such a dopey character convincingly.
Lewis comes in with long hair, ripped shorts, a singlet and jelly sandals, and the trio have to employ help - including a voice coach and a movement coach - in order to transform him into a slick, suit-wearing, smooth-talking, sellable senator with the new name of Tommy Ryan.
But have they created a puppet or a monster? And, whether they succeed or not in their plan, what will happen to them?
"There's an element of comedy and clowning ... it's almost a little bit Mr Bean meets [Monty] Python," Michael says.
And as often happens with satire, it can be difficult to keep ahead of real-world events.
"There are things we thought were preposterous - and then they happen," Michael says.
"Christopher Pyne was refused entry into a Canberra club - because he was wearing jelly sandals."
While we're on the subject of fiction mirroring reality, the character of the Liberal prime minister, played by Rhys Muldoon, invites scrutiny. Is the character based on anyone we know?
"Of course it is!" Muldoon says.
"It's a mix of [Peter] Dutton, [Tony] Abbott and [Malcolm] Turnbull with something extra thrown in.
"He's more than the sum of the parts."
The PM (he isn't named) combines the physicality of Abbott, the ideology of Dutton and the style of Turnbull.
"He's more well spoken than, say, Dutton," Muldoon says.
But, he says, there's definitely no hint of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, a friend of his.
This prime minister is trying to keep his party together (sound familiar?) and get the bill through parliament.
"He needs help with that," Muldoon says.
The PM gets to work on Tommy to obtain his support.
"He starts off nice but gets nasty pretty quickly."
While the prime minister is obviously a right-wing figure and a prime satirical target, Muldoon says the show "doesn't hold back on the left, either" - internal squabbling among Vic, Zaza and Chris being just one of that side's problems.
Michael - whose credits include the TV series Crownies - is no stranger to the nation's capital or political plays.
"My first big production toured to Canberra - in 2005, the STC's Two Brothers," he says.
He says How to Rule the World, given its setting, has a lot of Canberra references that ACT audiences will appreciate more than those who saw it during its long Sydney run.
Muldoon has even stronger Canberra ties. He grew up in the ACT and says he loved it.
He went to Belconnen High ("now considered the bad part of town, I believe") and Hawker College, and enjoyed the fact there were "so many parks" in Canberra.
He was also a political junkie from his teens.
"I had to go watch Parliament," he says.
"I loved watching Paul Keating - it was the best show in town."
Now he's gone from watching a prime minister to playing one.
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