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Don ALfonso gags his wife the final scene the director lays down the rules

Time Out 4.2.98
Reader - Oval House (fringe)
Nothing is quite as it seems in Ariel Dorfman's 1995 play, an involving Orwellian intrigue in which, appropriately there's much double-thinking to be done. You think you're watching a play about the government censor Alfonso Morales, whose bowdlerising fervour dims when confronted with a novel describing parts of his own past he thought he'd expurgated forever. Then Dorfman turns that conceit on its head: the real censor is Daniel Lucas; Morales is the uncanny fictional shadow whose story the horrified Lucas reads. As the lines between play and play-within-play dissolve, and the mystery manuscript takes a stranglehold on his conscience Lucas/Morales must decide whether his life is being written for him or whether he's unafraid enough to write its conclusion himself.
The censor's dilemma hinges on his relation to the fascistic state he serves, a near-futuristic dystopia called Paradise where life stops for 'smiley minutes' of muzak and
vacuity. Twenty years previously that state intimidated him into committing his dangerously free-spirited wife into a 'read-justment centre'. Now his guilt, and her ghost, are haunting him. Dorfman is dramatising responses to oppression. His character's journey is towards admitting fear, and then refusing to let that fear dictate terms. The play pleads for resistance against the removal of dreams and self expression; in it, writing and reading work as metaphors for self-determination and subjugation, for honesty and shame.
On Daniel Bennet's economic, elegant set, Fifth Column handle this intelligent, intricate play with sensitivity; Rob Curry's production never overdoes either the odd-ness or the passion. John Ashton paces the welling of existential panic perfectly as the cornered censor, while Anthony Smee brings to the director, who directs in more ways than one, a satisfyingly wide-eyed Machiavellian glee.
Brian Logan
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