By George Theodoridis
The performance on last night’s Q&A (8th Nov) was beyond admirable. Beyond shock ‘n awe. Beyond expectation. Worthy of a tragic actor on an ancient Greek stage, one who played Agamemnon, say, or of a Shakespearean stage, one who played Richard II, say.
Actors of the Ancient Greek stage had to be good. Bloody good, since they had to play up to four roles in the one tragedy, roles of men, of women, of children, of servants and slaves, of gods and kings and queens and prophets, of murderers and of men who gouged out their eyes, all behind heavy masks and even heavier costumes, conducting the least possible stage business and exhibiting all of the human emotions.
They had to be good because they were all men and they only had their voice -their man’s voice to perform all these roles. Their full repertoire depended on just that human tool: their voice. Nothing else.
These men were so good at their job that their country often sent them off to other countries to act as diplomats or ambassadors or advocates. Interlocutors. Men like Aristodemos of Miletus for example and Neoptolemos, who, it is said, Demosthenes, the author of legal rhetoric, had paid 10,000 drachmas to teach him how to deliver whole lines of speech (Full stop to full stop) without taking a breath. 10,000 drachmas back then was a sum beyond belief. A soldier would have to survive 10,000 days of service to earn this much!
So yes, ancient Greek tragic actors were good.
Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s performance was equal if not superior in skill to those ancient Greek actors and to those who played Shakespeare’s works.
When Jones’ introduction ended we could tell that this play would be one of a huge cast, of long held grudges, of Promithean and Epimethean interpreters of events passed and of events to pass, of events of great significance and of events that showed the banality of significant events.
There was our deposed, dumped and politically assassinated Malcolm, cogitating aloud, as was King Richard II to the Duke of Aumerle and as was Aeschylus’ Agamemnon to his brother Menelaos, about the hollowness of crowns, of thrones bereft of honour and of the vacuity of grand titles. The powerlessness of power. And he cogitated with the lyricism and the poetry of Richard II, arguably the most eloquent of all of Shakespeare’s characters and almost as mournful as Iphigeneia’s pleas to her father not to sacrifice her.
And, like the ancient Greek actors, he played many roles.
Malcolm the messiah, was one, Malcolm the king, Malcolm the Phoenix (not a hint of ash about him), Malcolm the Historiographer, Malcolm whose government was “blown up” (as he put it).
What was the number of Caesar’s assassins, as many as those of Malcolm? Sixty, perhaps? The autopsy on Caesar’s body (first ever autopsy) revealed some twenty three stab wounds. The look on Malcolm’s face, though free of any hint of ash, spoke of many more. Too many for him not to say, “I have left politics and I am now back in business.” Some of us could well suggest the man has never left the “business.”
Last night, Malcolm was just one more dumped PM, dumped PMs being a common sight in Australia.
For the first few moments of the show we were asking ourselves if he would reveal his Casca, the first to plunge the sword into Caesar’s body. Was it Scott Morrison himself? Abbott? Dutton? Coremann? Ciobo? That hand around Malcolm’s shoulder was Morrison’s just a couple of days before the dumping. Was that a sign like Judas’ kiss, identifying him to the conspirators in case they got the wrong man?
But we didn’t have to wait long. Malcolm pulled back the black curtains, opening them wide for us to see a phalanx of conspirators, all with knives of glistening steel, shuddering with anticipation: Abbott, Hunt, Cormann, Fifield, Ciobo, Cash, Keenan, Taylor…
Why did they do it? Why did they blow up the government? Well, Malcolm doesn’t know, and he said that we’ve got to ask them!
Malcolm came on the Q&A stage last Thursday to play the role he knows best: that of the miracle maker: Jesus and Lazarus all rolled into one; in the one act, in the one retelling of the story. Malcolm came on the Q&A stage to resurrect himself, to raise himself from the dead as Jesus allegedly did to Lazarus almost 2000 years ago.
So he listed all his miracles: “We delivered on jobs and growth, strong economic growth, reduced personal income tax, reduced company tax, record investment in infra structure, reformed schools funding, record funding in health and pharmaceutical benefits, record funding and support for Aust. Defence Industry, Australian steel industry, TPP, exemption from Trump’s trade restrictions… the bonking ban, the social reforms, legalising same sex marriage…” and on and on he went reminding us of his miracles. They were endless!
And to play the role of the saviour.
For goodness’ sake, didn’t we, the plebs in the fish markets understand that messiah Turnbull wanted to save us from the devil, Bill Shorten who will indubitably, send us to hell with increased taxes, increased Union power, reduced investment and put our economic growth and the jobs growth at risk?
Didn’t we, in the vegetable stalls and the meat stalls understand this?
Did we not see that Malcolm had descended from heaven to save us from Bill!
I am still scouring my brain to understand why he gave me and millions of others the right to judge who can love whom and who can marry whom. Why would I be given a right that belongs to someone else? What right did he or any politician have to do that?
I’m still scouring my brain to work out why it is that religious organisations have so much political clout in this country and why schools of a religious “ethos” (scouring my brain to work out what that word means in the context they’ve dumped it in as well) want even more laws to allow them to treat gay students and staff like abhorrent miscreants and to sack them at will.
I’m still scouring my brain to work out why there ever were and still are, refugees who have nothing but good will for this country, who have asked for our help and who found themselves in utter despair thanks to our savage treatment of their country, through bombing and trade restrictions, why are these people suffering Guantanamo-like conditions under our bastardy in Nauru and Manus.
There are lots of other things too, that I am scouring my brain to find an answer to and I know full well that this country has been blown up so totally that this search will bear nothing but despair.
Scomo of course knew and appreciated Malcolm’s acting prowess so he did what Greek Govnt’s did with their best actors: he sent Malcolm to Indonesia to represent Australia as its diplomat in the free trade agreement between the two states, to calm down Mr Joko Widodo who was still unsettled by Malcolm’s dumping and by Scomo’s wish to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Poor Scomo! Malcolm turned his dream into a nightmare.
Finally comes the removing of the happy mask.
“I’m proud of the achievements I was able to make,” the messiah mused forlornly. And it was genuinely a forlorn sort of contemplation. You could see it in his eyes, lids rising and falling as if the weight of misery was upon them.
“I’m not miserable or resentful or bitter at all,” he said. “I am joyful! I got an enormous amount done… I’m very positive about my time in office. It ended sooner than I would like it to have ended and it ended in circumstances that remain unexplained but nonetheless, it was a time of great achievement… it (his dumping) was crazy, pointless, self-destructive.
I wish Scott all the best, I really do!”
But I could hear the words he was thinking, the words he didn’t dare to utter and they were uttered in Chinese: “I wish Scott an interesting crown.”
One like that worn by Richard the Second:
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Richard II ACT III, Scene ii