Marvellous Minneapolis holds men accountable

29 July 2021

For the second time in a week, young West Australian playwrights take on the gold standard of theatre – the full-length, two-act play – and David Zampatti says Will O’Mahony’s Minneapolis succeeds at it handsomely.

Minneapolis, Will O’Mahony ·
Subiaco Theatre Centre, 28 July 2021 ·

How extraordinary and inspiring to see two full-length, two act plays written by West Australians open within one week on Perth stages – Chris Isaacs and Ian Michael’s York and now Will O’Mahony’s Minneapolis.

It’s a sign of the maturity of the impressive cohort of young West Australian theatre makers now taking on the challenge of creating and maintaining the gold standard of theatre, with the dramatic architecture, thematic content and character development it requires.

O’Mahony admits that taking on that challenge was his initial motivation for Minneapolis, and he achieves it handsomely.

I have one significant reservation, but, in isolation, it doesn’t detract overmuch from O’Mahony’s achievement.

Boy (O’Mahony) has problems enough, but the hardest to deal with is a Tik Tok clip of him making a viciously unacceptable comment in an unguarded moment after a gig (he is/was a rock drummer), posted by Girl (Andrea Gibbs).

The clip is on the cusp of going viral, and Boy is desperate to have it stopped.

His attempt to plead and cajole Girl is a humiliating failure, his anxiety only increasing when she reveals herself as an investigative journalist, with the incident as an assignment.

They meet, talk, spar, and somehow a kind of relationship – I use the word advisedly – develops between them.

There’s another character, a bike food delivery boy, Roo (Tobias Muhafidin), who Boy convinces (money changes hands) to keep him company as he works through his dilemmas.

Roo is wise beyond his years, street-smart and confident, and gradually the two of them unpick Boy’s situation and work out a way out of it.

Tobias Muhafidin is completely at ease in his character, while Liam Hickey has an intriguing place in the play’s construction. Photo: Christophe Canato

O’Mahony builds the tension, peels away the contradictions and lays out the alternatives, so that by 9:13pm (I idly noted the time) he had set up a tantalising game of Pick The Twist.

The scenes zing with malicious intent. O’Mahony is a master of the turnaround jump shot zinger and the use of enhanced patter, and the gasps of surprise and outrage he draws from the audience are as frequent as its bursts of laughter.

And O’Mahony uses this cut and thrust to draw out the underlying theme of Minneapolis; the often unconscious sense of entitlement of men, their automatic assumption of the role of protagonist in their lives, their surprised indignation when others – women especially – don’t cede them authority, and their untenable expectation they won’t be held publicly accountable for their words and actions.

They may not notice it, but women, through bitter experience, do. And will.

Co-directed by O’Mahony and Frances Barbe, the three performances are all superb. Both O’Mahony and Gibbs are lethally weaponised actors (Gibbs can do contempt with eyebrow-lifted exactitude) and locate themselves exactly in their characters.

Muhafidin is a revelation; I struggle to recall an actor of his age so completely at ease on the stage and in his character. O’Mahony and Barbe have constructed a gift of a part for him, and he rips off its wrapping and plays the game inside it with extraordinary verve and ability.

The other performer, percussionist Liam Hickey, has an intriguing place in the play’s construction, linking its scenes with drum solos that build the anxiety and anger of Boy as the play’s tension rises.

So, by 9:13pm, O’Mahony had skilfully explored the play’s themes by the words and actions of his characters, but he then felt it necessary to end with Girl delivering a ten plus minute monologue that essentially summarised what we had just seen and drew from it broader consequences that any alert audience should be allowed to make for themselves.

Whether it’s a lack of confidence in himself, or his audience, it needn’t have been there, and certainly not at its unnecessary length.

It isn’t a fatal weakness, though, and won’t be what its audience remembers from a play that sparkles and illuminates in equal measure.

Minneapolis continues until 31 July 2021.

Pictured top are Will O’Mahony, as Boy, and Andrea Gibbs, as Girl, in ‘Minneapolis’. Photo: Christophe Canato

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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