“My family has drama but your family has melodrama!”
“What’s the difference?”
Edith Aldridge is about to be sworn in as the youngest female leader of her country. In the Presidential suite of a hotel, her make-up artist, Rosie, has arrived at 5:30am to get her ready for the biggest day of her life. Rosie has ninety-minutes to work her magic and we’re with them through the highs of trying on pre-approved dresses and the lows of clammy skin and the middling pre-prepared speech that speaks to family legacy but not the fuchsia. I mean, future.
You can learn a lot about a person in an hour and a half, especially when they are doing your make-up or they are the future Prime Minister of your country. Emily Sheehan’s political two-hander is satirical in sly and outrageous ways.
Edith’s stories of her political dynasty (following in her father’s footsteps) feels both true-to-character and also wildly over-the-top. Rosie is more grounded, of course; she’s the one working at David Jones and living on AfterPay loans. But the glimpses into the relationship with her current, controlling boyfriend feel true-to-life, working as an arresting contrast to the political machinations she’s getting an earful of.
Played against Sophie Woodward’s not-quite-but-almost Barbie-pink set, all diaphanous curtains and winding stairs, Sarah Sutherland and Julia Hanna’s sparring is a sight to behold. The pair brings out the audience’s laughter of recognition and multiple applause breaks for the political commentary – both about the highest office in the land, as well as the interrogation of the beauty industry. And now neither of them is as easy to define as they would first seem.
Director Ella Caldwell guides the two actors with a gentle hand, helping them to navigate the shifting tones of the relationship and Sheehan’s text. The power plays escalate the closer Edith and Rosie get to 7am and it’s a deft director that can help each reversal to feel as potent as the last.
The only downside to the production was Danni Esposito’s sound design, which was ever-present and only underlined the drama that was already apparent in the tension between characters. Much of the time it played like white noise and didn’t feel suited to a palatial hotel room at all.
In 2023, I think we’re all well-versed in how make-up and clothing can maketh the Prime Minister and that we can change minds or set a tone with our appearance. But Monument isn’t just about the subtext of presentation, it’s about how we switch tones to appease people and carefully craft answers to open up or shut down a discussion. It’s about being authentically authentic and what truths get in the way of a good story or the road to power.
Sheehan’s script is complicated and clever, finding a way to talk about power and privilege that sounds different to the age-old conversations that men have been having for generations.
And it’s about how no-makeup makeup takes a lot more work to make you look like you’ve made no effort at all.
Monument is a fast-paced real-time negotiation of power.
- Keith Gow, Theatre First
Photo: Jodie Hutchinson