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Published Book or Work by:

Justin Fleming

Coup d'Etat (Western Canada Theatre)

Coup d
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Published by The Daily News
28 February 2004
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
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