Theatre Tours International Ltd
Theatre Tours International Ltd
What's On NOW!
To: Oleanna 2008
  • Written by David Mamet
  • Performed by Guy Masterson and Joanne Hartstone
  • Originally directed by Emma Lucia
  • UK Tour Autumn 2008
  • CIT Adelaide Fringe 2009, 2011

An unconventional university professor on the brink of tenure tries to assist a struggling student who has come to him for help. The encounter soon sours and both suddenly find themselves grappling with the opposing needs of the other...

Opinions collide, resulting in an epic power struggle born of seemingly trivial beginnings, crashing together the ideals of free speech with invasive political correctness. The result is explosive.

Oleanna, Mamet's most controversial and celebrated work, split audiences on Broadway, in the West End, and around the world since its premiere in 1989. Now in the hands Guy Masterson & acclaimed new Australian star Joanne Hartstone, the play brutally demonstrates its relevance in contemporary Britain.

Oleanna is theatrical dynamite. It will challenge everyone. Arguments will erupt in the bar. It is a truly divisive work almost guaranteed to elicit debate and emotive response. But, whoever you side with, it might be easier to just say you're wrong..!

"There can be no tougher or more unflinching play than Oleanna" (Harold Pinter)

Guy Masterson & Joanne Hartstone in Oleanna (4 Stars) MASTERSON & HARTSTONE EXCEL!
Taking on a piece of work as complex, densely written and nuanced as Oleanna takes some serious acting skills, and it's a delight to report that Guy Masterson and Joanne Hartstone excel in one of David Mamet's most controversial plays.
That's where the delight stops however. Oleanna is about being confused, conflicted, and asked to question what you believe is going on, and it's all grey area. In it, a university professor counsels a struggling student. His actions soon become fodder for a sexual harassment suit. Out of context, the claims made against him make a convincing case - one which is initially incorrect, but becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. In a great irony, the lecturer, whose main thesis is that university education is not a good in itself, is buried as his struggling student, who he tried to help, becomes educated, and empowered as she becomes aware of her 'rights'. (Cameron England - Adelaide Advertiser, 02/03/09)

"A nervous, unsure and confused student (Carol - Joanne Hartstone) is failing her course. She desperately needs to pass, and meets her professor, imploring him to help her. The professor (John - Guy Masterson) is distracted, but agrees to guide her through her difficulties. His kindness is suffused with arrogance and an unequal power relationship, but is there more to this bargain? Is his apparent certainty that she will get an "A" a reflection of his confidence in his teaching or is there an unspoken quid pro quo? Are his touches reassuring or sexual? When Carol reports John to the tenure committee, his world is thrown into turmoil. Has he been manipulated or is he only the victim of his own prurient condescension?
David Mamet's unflinching play about sexual politics, the dishonesty of modern education and how the language of jargon obliterates communication, is tense, incendiary and gut-wrenching. The brilliant text is well served by two sensational performances by Hartstone and Masterson.
The most interesting artistic choice is how to pitch the relationship: is Carol stupid and naïve or is there some calculation in her, is she guileless or is there a whiff of coquettishness in her plea for help? Is John also naïve, closeted by his self-importance and secure in his world of semantics? Emma Lucia's assured direction offers no clear answers but the edge of sympathy is with the hapless academic. The savage ironies and complexities of this master-work are brought precisely to the performance by Lucia and her brilliant cast. Violent, uncompromising and uncomfortable, this play should be seen by all who appreciate intelligent and impeccably-performed theatre." (John Wells - Adelaide Theatre Guide, 02/03/09)

"Guy Masterson and Adelaide actress, Joanne Hartstone, have revitalised David Mamet's play of the destructive relationship between a struggling undergraduate student and the university professor whom she accuses of sexual harassment. This controversial play was inspired by, and written at the time of, the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas sexual harassment scandal.
Distanced now from the newness of sexual harassment legal cases and the extreme levels of political correctness of the time, this play needs a clarified direction to make it relevant to current audiences, and this is precisely what we find in this production. The focus is shifted to an investigation of underlying issues and questions the thought processes behind the words and actions of the protagonists. Magnificent performances by both performers, and incisive direction, make this an essential addition to your list of shows not to be missed. This play has great impact in the hands of Masterson and Hartstone. Brilliant!" (Barry Lenny Rip It Up Magazine 04/03/09)

"This is mesmerising, thought-provoking live theatre for less than $30 - what more could you want?
Performed in a large, atmospheric warehouse, with a minimalist set, it was difficult to hear at times, but the audience was nonetheless captivated.
The wordy two-person play, by David Mamet, is heavy stuff, dealing with a power struggle between a university lecturer and his young female student.
It's a big ask for any actor, but veteran director/performer Guy Masterson and Flinders University graduate Joanne Hartstone did it justice, maintaining a ferocious intensity for the full hour and 15 minutes. The newcomer certainly has stage presence." (Eleanor Miller Adelaide Messenger 04/03/09)

"Oleanna is a highly emotional and high-octane play about the miscommunication between the sexes as seen through the actions of a professor and his student. Written by David Mamet, this work is arguably the definitive production concerning political correctness. With a cast of only two, what appears to be simple student-teacher conference would seem to have limited appeal but don't be fooled: this play is explosive.
Carol (Joanne Hartstone) is a failing student. John (Guy Masterson) is her middle-aged tutor. They meet in a minimalist office (simply two chairs) and John offers to give her A grades if she continues to work through the course with him in private. There's no doubt at this stage that John holds the power but Carol is cunningly taking notes. Hartstone is excellent at changing her character and turning the tables next time they meet. She's accused him of sexual harassment and attempted rape and the two characters attack each other until the shocking and violent finale.
It takes two gifted actors to nail this duologue. With both Masterson and Hartstone in exceptional form, and Emma Lucia's crisp direction, Oleanna arouses strong feelings as it rings all too true. (Stephen Davenport - Adelaide Independent - 03/03/09)

PUNTERS REVIEWS - Adelaide Talkfringe 09

Vinyl_Cutter wrote: What a sensational play! How good is Adelaide's Joanne Hartstone! Her performance opposite the UK maestro Guy Masterson is stunning and she is definitely destined for more success. Hartstone and Masterson bring Mamet's script to life in the atmospheric Queens Theatre with just 2 chairs, effective lighting and stirring music. And a phone. I was blown away. It gets my vote as the best in the Fringe.

thankana wrote: Absolutely brilliant!! Joanna Hartstone is amazing and talented, she was intensely believable, loved it, loved it, loved it!!!

mara wrote: The first time I saw this ripper of a piece of theatre I thought she was a real bitch. No one deserved the charges she made against him. But the second time I began to think differently. I took in more of her arguments. She was adopting the intellectual position that he had made the foundation of his academic career - that university education is not valuable education. He would not listen to her, instead deflecting thought and insight with self satisfied pedantry. Great! Still thinking....

Dave wrote: Just brilliant! Guy Masterson is,as always,a superb actor in this riveting Mamet play. His role as the pompous professor shows Masterson's emotional skills as the tables are turned on him. Joanne Hartstone is simply wonderful as her anxious and angry student character develops into a manipulative schemer.It really is edge of the seat stuff. What talent there is in Adelaide! Don't miss it.

Jaz wrote: Great performance with a tight and electrifying script. Execution, whist excellent fell slightly shy of the high standards set by Masterson's other performances (Animal Farm and 12 Angry Men). Definitely worth seeing.

janeanne wrote: Watching two horrid and self-victimising characters arguing on stage for 75 minutes may not sound like a good night out at the fringe, but Mamet's engaging script skilfully acted makes for a great night of theatre. Masterson is the strength of the performance, with Hartstone getting stronger as the play progressed.

sluceaus wrote: One of the most amazing theatrical experiences I've had. The two leads are amazingly talented and the writing is brilliant. The stripped down stage (two chairs only) creates a sense of immediacy and claustrophobia. One of the best shows at the Fringe.