Friday 10 February 2023

Code of Conduct review (Midsumma Festival)

In his first play, When The Light Leaves, Rory Godbold explored the issues of voluntary assisted dying stemming from his father's diagnosis of cancer and subsequent ending of his life. Code of Conduct, Godbold's new show, is once more based on his own experiences, this time while working as a high school teacher and having to sign a Code of Conduct that disapproved of diverse genders and sexualities.

In this production, Paul (Matthew Connell) has already been teaching for a few years, but a new job at a Christian College brings with it some new challenges, specifically when it comes to teachers and students being required to separate their faith from their identity. Paul's employment here and his private life, gradually impacts the daily running of the college and the lives of a number of students and staff including teachers Sarah and David (Molly Holohan and Charles Purcell) and principal Clare (Sarah Sutherland). As the narrative unfolds and develops, the relationships between the four staff are stretched and put to the test.

An extremely talented and capable cast has been assembled for Code of Conduct. The writing gives each actor plenty to play with and it’s captivating to watch the various pairings interact. Connell delivers a strong performance as Paul, where he easily demonstrates his eagerness to lead for better change for his students but at the same time displaying a sanctimonious attitude that puts him offside with many of his supporters (and audience). Holohan as Clare is the highlight of the show, quietly struggling to find a separation and balance between her professional and personal life that might ultimately break her. Purcell is brilliant as PE and Health teacher David, playing him with much bravado while giving flashes of vulnerability and fear. Sutherland also excels in her role as principal, effortlessly presenting her frustrations of working in a system that refuses to change but also her unwillingness to try and create that change.

The show begins and ends with scenes that happen outside of the main story, with a short monologue at the beginning by Kurt Pimblett playing an unnamed character and a time jump roughly five years into the future to close things off. Unfortunately, both of these additions feel forced and unnatural with the rest of Godbold's humorously stirring script. The strength of this production lies within the narrative between the four staff and their actions and reactions to the events that transpire.
While the time jump offers Paul an opportunity to reflect and learn, incorporating this into the main time setting would be more effective.

With the events mainly taking place in the teacher's staff room, Mark Wilson's sharp direction builds the momentum and the tension between the characters to its very heated and complicated climax. The only stumble occurs during a physical confrontation between two characters that feels too performative and loses the authenticity that he otherwise captures so perfectly.

Code of Conduct raises a number of questions on how schools are responding to teenagers questioning and realising their sexuality and gender identity, and allowing their own staff to express these parts of their lives. It doesn’t offer a straightforward answer but it can’t. Instead, Code of Conduct intelligently puts the spotlight on this complicated and multifaceted issue and hopefully, the more we begin to - and continue to - talk about it, the more educated we can all become.

Show Details

Venue: Gasworks Art Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park
Season: Until 11 February | Fri 6pm and 8:30pm, Sat 3:30pm and 8:30pm
Duration: 75 mins
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Image Credit: Chelsea Neate

No comments:

Post a Comment