When Oleanna opened nearly thirty years ago, we lived in a very different world where sexual harassment and assault in the workplace or in higher education were not as widely talked about as they are today.
The #MeToo movement brought these issues to our headlines and into our lives and this play navigates through these very strikingly current themes.
Set on an American campus, this two-chapter play by David Mamet shows us the power dynamics between a college student (played by Rosie Sheehy) and her college professor (played by Jonathan Slinger).
The audience is also invited to explore the sometimes not so black and white “he said she said” accusations made against people in high positions of power.
It is important to highlight that false accusations of sexual harassment and assault are extremely rare and this modern classic is without a doubt controversial. I don’t think two people in the audience will come out of this place with the same conclusion of what actually happened in that office during the three meetings between Carol and her professor, and even during the classes which we did not see.
Privilege, power, the patriarch – all themes which are brilliantly explored in this play and will make you reflect deeply into the raw and sometimes extreme emotions expressed by these two so different characters. Rosie Sheehy delivers an outstanding performance from beginning to end… and what an end!
Some nuances of victim blaming and rape myths can also be identified when examining the reasons behind Carol decision to report an incident of sexual harassment.
Was there also anger behind it? Yes. Revenge? I did not see it. Some level of manipulation? Perhaps…
One thing is for sure: this play is a must see for fans of good writing and thought provoking art.
Words - Daniela Da Palma
Oleanna is showing at MAST Mayflower Studios until 10th July - Tickets available from https://www.mayflowerstudios.org.uk/what-s-on/oleanna-2021/