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Powerhouse Theatre’s White Noise | Review

White NoiseBoth the self-styled ‘Lady De Franco’ (Danielle J Gearing) and David (Paul Westwood) agree that “sometimes the world just feels like white noise”. ‘White noise’ has many connotations: a play of the same name had an off-Broadway run in 2019 and was about a police attack on an African-American, almost certainly motivated by racial prejudice. Here, however, there’s a parliamentarian answering a question with far more information than was actually requested, to cover up or – pardon the pun – mask unpalatable or inconvenient truths. Despite involving a series of discreet online meetings between a politician and a sex worker, this play doesn’t involve any, ahem, scenes of a provocative nature and/or partial nudity.

It seems to me rather bizarre, and more than slightly untenable, that a Government frontbencher (for that is what David is) would “just want to talk” to someone whose services are usually solicited for sexual gratification: there are various charities and organisations that can help people who require support. Elise, as De Franco is properly called, quite reasonably considers this a highly unusual session, but she’s resourceful enough to more than hold her own in a wide-ranging discussion that sometimes came across as a stream of consciousness than something tightly
structured for dramatic effect.

A game of ‘guess the political persuasion of the show’s writer’ on my part promptly ended when Elise sang ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ within minutes of the play starting, and, truth be told, I could have left the ‘theatre’ (for which read Zoom meeting) at that point and reached a similar conclusion about where the two characters would end up, politically speaking, that the play itself did about an hour later.

A number of voiceovers, including that of Boris Johnson, can be heard in between scenes, giving some external context to the various sessions between David and Elise. The production also makes efforts to be sympathetic to ‘sex workers’ (Elise’s choice of description), with Elise making it clear that she sets her own working hours, and with client meetings being online as opposed to being in person, she feels it is very safe.

There are forthright views put forward throughout, though the dialogue almost lurches from one topic to another, without always circling back to previous topics to delve into them a little deeper. But, ever the politician, David’s response to Elise’s pooh-poohing of the Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic is, “I believe we’re going to do everything in our power to try”, but weasel words are met with poignancy as Elise talks about her mother’s experiences working in a care home. And this isn’t, admittedly, the only narrative point that seems contrived.

The production’s overall aims, however, are laudable, and it does well to demonstrate that in a world of social media putdowns and ‘cancel culture’, it is still entirely possible for two people from very different backgrounds and political ideologies to learn from one another’s perspectives. A technical hitch was covered by the actors brilliantly, giving the audience an opportunity to witness the challenges of live performance combined with the comfort of watching at home. Plenty of food for thought in this unusual play.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

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