By Roland Schimmelpfennig
Directed by Kaarin Fairfax
With Ella Caldwell, Kate Cole, Vincent Miller, Kat Stewart, David Whiteley & Peter Hosking
Push Up (Oct 17 – Nov 9, 2003) –Helen Thomson, The Age 27-Oct-03
Roland Schimmelpfennig is a rising star in German theatre with a record of award-winning plays. But, a piercing study of the corporate world, Push Up could have been set in any large city in the Western world.
Six characters are trying to push to the top of their organisation: to win is to survive; to lose is simply to disappear. The real world is irrelevant and rarely impinges on the consciousness of these inhabitants of 16 stories of corporate success – the Kramer building. Schimmelpfennig gives us three scenes of meetings between pairs of employees.
In the first, the boss will stop at nothing to uncover her husband’s sexual infidelities. The young woman who has been refused promotion is more like her boss than they realise. Their verbal exchanges, in which aggression is barely reined in, are interrupted by monologues telling us what each of them is thinking.
This technique is also used in other scenes, to ironic effect. Saying one thing and thinking something quite different reveals the duplicity, the dishonesty, but also the fear and sense of inadequacy that underlies these “winners”.
Here is the real sting in the tale: winners and losers alike are frightened, lonely individuals whose lives outside the Kramer building are utterly empty. Things like shopping are used to fill the void, or an exercise bike, or surfing the net in search of a girlfriend. Is is a devastating critique of capitalism’s human products.
It is also funny, and Ella Caldwell, Kate Cole, Vincent Miller, Kat Stewart, David Whiteley and Peter Hosking give sharp, well-fucussed performances that reflect director Kaarin Fairfax’s skill in producing uncluttered scenes that cut straight to the chase.
Deadpan public exchanges keep peeling back to reveal the emotions surging beneath the well-dressed surfaces
This is an enormously enjoyable and timely play, performed with Red Stitch’s usual panache.