REVIEW - THRILLING BIG COUP FOR WESTERN CANADA THEATRE. JUSTIN
FLEMING'S evocative retelling of a 1988 power struggle - and the reaction of the western
world - in the tropical paradise of Malaysia offer a prescription for understanding the
global distemper of our times. Exotically set and seamlessly rendered, this production is
one of the must-sees of the season.
Tun Salleh Abas, the lord president of the Malaysian judiciary, is sacked on trumped up
charges after resisting the will of the King. Democracy is undermined. A UN delegation
of judicial officials arrives to assess the crisis, to confront the tyrant at the top. Yet all is
not what it first seems to be.
The magical scenic design and lighting of this production are layered. Stone floors
silently recede to expose water-filled ponds ringed with lily pads. Richly coloured
backdrops overlap like veils that both reveal and conceal. All that is missing is the scent
of sandalwood incense. Birds sing, flowers blossom, dissent is crushed.
Similarly, the intimidating leader, powerfully portrayed by Parnelli Parnes, becomes
much more than a despot skilled at rhetoric. He turns on his accusers. Confronted over
his corrupt actions, he rips away the mask of Western hypocrisy. In so doing he tells us
as much about ourselves as about the values of Islam and Malaysia.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive. Johnna Wright, as the American constitutional
lawyer Juliet Elms Morton, must confront the demons of her personal past. Hers is a
sub-plot that exposes the weakness of the system she seeks to uphold. Stephen Hair
as Justice Nigel Prior is suitably astute and erudite. Khaira Ledeyo as the veiled guide
Sofiah represents Muslim good and the promise of change, a compassionate and
articulate spokeswoman for her people. And Alvin Sanders as Abas is both reserved and
wise, a sea of calm in the storm of controversy. He is no martyr, no sacrificial lamb. "The
lamb that had its throat cut in that starry chamber was justice itself", he tells Elms Morton
of his own prosecution.
Justice For All is a sentiment well served by Coup d'Etat. Kamloops audiences have an
opportunity to experience it ahead of the rest of North America - another coup for WTC. - Mike Youds, The Daily News, Kamloops, Canada