raw, passionate, and daring

— REVIEW of ‘The Economist’ | The Times

The Economist | Review

Robert Dawson-Scott | The Times
6 Aug, 2012

✭ | Three Stars

A verdict from the Norwegian courts on Anders Breivik, the man responsible for the Utøya island massacre, is expected this month. If he is judged insane he can be detained indefinitely. If he is declared guilty of mass murder, the maximum sentence is 24 years. The Economist, a raw, passionate and daring show from Australia about a man called Andrew Berwick, who is in fact a thinly disguised version of Breivik, suggests that there is not much room for doubt, despite the conflicting reports heard in court.

Tobias Manderson-Galvin’s script draws on everything from Breivik’s notorious 1,500-page manifesto to his character on the computer game World of Warcraft to demonstrate the incremental steps that led him to the point where the bombing and shootings were the next logical step in his political development.

And here’s the uncomfortable but inescapable crux of the play, which was a controversial sensation when it opened in Melbourne late last year. If Breivik is not insane, then his far-right ideology, fuelled by ultra-nationalist iconography and carefully selected historical oddities such as the Teutonic Knights, is symptomatic of a growing political reality in Europe that is already showing up in parliaments and local authorities.

Van Badham’s inventive ensemble production, on slender resources in the sort of dingy basement that only the Fringe could call a venue, opens with the sort of idealised tableau that David Lynch might have produced if he had been Norwegian. And, just in case there are any lingering gender stereotypes, she has a young woman (Carolyn Butler*, suitably blonde) play Berwick. But the rest of it is a pointed accretion of detail, at first fascinating and then increasingly chilling and disturbing.

“raw, passionate, and daring”