I remember reading David Mamet's Oleanna many, many years ago. Specific memories of it are sketchy at best, but I do remember not liking it very much. The situations within it seemed a little unreal to me and the dialogue was, well, annoying.
But, my darlings, theatre is meant to be seen and not read. And many years later, here at the Edinburgh festival in 2009, I find my opinion has for the most part... partially changed.
The play is cut into three scenes following the gradual shifts in power between a male professor and his female student.
The energy on the stage is absolutely electric. The dialogue bounces of the walls around us, so much so that you find yourself ducking your head on occasions to avoid a direct collision with a flying word. On the stage, the dialogue sparkles and that changed my view on this area of the play.
Saying that, there are still parts of the play that I have problems with. Some of the situations that occur, or don't occur, are a little bit beyond belief. Why does she keep coming back? Why does he keep asking her to stay? There are a number of aspects that just don't ring true to me and damages the play as a whole.
Kevin Hanssen is fantastic as the professor. Passionate, intelligent and a trifle sleazy, we're never really quite sure about him and that keeps us all on the edge of our seats. Renee Mostert is not so good at the beginning, but as the play progresses she starts to find her feet and by the end we are able to forgive her for her rather nervous start.
One clear memory of reading Oleanna all those years ago is that I was never really sure whose side I was on by the end. They were both equally wrong and right in my eyes. That is not the case with this production. When I walked out of the theatre, I knew exactly whose side I was on. I will not tell you which side because I do not want to influence your view. All I can say is go and see it and make up your own mind.
Times: 10-23 August (not 17), 6.35pm