King George

When: November 21 to December 2,  2023
Venue: Masambe Theatre, Baxter Theatre Centre
Bookings: Webtickets
Writer: Brent Palmer
Director: Adrian Collins
Performers: Clyde Berning and Brent Palmer
Design: Adrian Collins    

King George, the new play by Brent Palmer, starring Palmer and Clyde Berning, is on one level a thriller, packed with suspense and intrigue. Two very different men are sparring as they fight for what they regard as their turf in Lower Woodstock. Who will win? That is for you to find out as George Megalos (the owner of a strip club in Woodstock, (played by Palmer) and Shane Wyntock, a property developer (Clyde Berning) duel with each, pitched superbly by Adrian Collins in the director’s seat.

It is tale of edge-of-seat suspense, but beyond the thrills of the narrative, Palmer uses the frame of King George to dip deep into issues of urban development, ownership of land, gangstersism and the thorny morass of morals and scruples. King George is stylish (wow set design by Adrian Collins), entertaining, with zippy dialogue by Brent Palmer and stunning performances by Palmer and Berning.

In King George, Palmer as writer drills deep into notions of “good” versus “bad/shady” and ethics. Whose morality is it? Who is king of the castle? Urban development and gentrification is essential and important for progress but what about people and community heritage? Morality is a malleable construct. I am being rather cryptic here as I don’t want to plot spoil. King George left me thinking as I contemplated the disturbing elements in this excellent play which transcends dark-comedy thriller.

The nuanced performances by Berning and Palmer, heighten the tension and mirth in the writing. Berning’s Shane is wound tight, plotting in his chrome and glass glossy office with corporate art on the walls (paintings by Elise Vossgatter). To decompress, he has his yoga mat (excellent yoga Tree position, Clyde Berning). He has his trolley with drinks. It is all sleek and perfect. George (Palmer) in his gaudy shirt, swaggers im, incensed by the eviction order by Shane’s company which would mean the end of the business he has worked so hard to build up. The menace of George is palpable. Shane woos him. They prowl around each other. The riff-off of accents between the two men, their origin stories and motives is masterfully conveyed by Palmer and Berning. George is an amalgamation of accents and nationalities. One cannot pin him down. He is an outsider. Shane is larney, groomed and is clearly the product of a “good” school, whatever that is. It is fascinating to see Palmer and Berning as they play with their characters – verbally and physically – circling around each other like two animals in a turf war. Collins as director keeps this two hander dynamically moving and shifting through the office space.

King George is smart and stylish theatre- a biting morality play and cautionary tale with knockout performances. The sleek and glossy set is terrific – one of the most detailed and beautifully detailed sets that I have seen in the intimate Masambe Theatre at the Baxter. Do not miss.

✳ Photo by Claude Barnardo of King George actors and director – Clyde Berning (actor -left) and Brent Palmer (actor- right and writer of the play) and at the back Adrian Collins (director).