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A Broadcast Coup

A Broadcast Coup
Playwright: Melanie Tait
Director: Janine Watson
Ensemble Theatre
January 26 – March 4, 2023

A Broadcast Coup is both laugh-aloud funny and bitingly observant as playwright Melanie Tait examines the complex workplace issues given prominence by the 2017 #MeToo movement. While the movement raised awareness of sexual misconduct and exposed the exploitive behaviour of several prominent men, how much did the movement ameliorate injustice in the workplace?

Tait’s play brings together characters of different sexual orientation, from different age groups and from differing rungs on the power ladder within the context of broadcasting. Mike King (Tony Cogin), in his 60s, is the host of high-rating morning radio programme, Louise (Sharon Millerchip) his middle-aged long-time executive producer and willing hand-maiden, Noa (Alex King), his new 24-year-old junior-producer, feisty and ambitious, and station manager, Troy (Ben Gerrard) earnestly pursuing protocol in the face of Mike’s denigrating comments.

Mike is King in name and king of his studio, but as he has just returned from a mandated anger-management retreat, it seems he already has problems, both relational and in maintaining his influence in a world being colonised by social media. Aggressively arrogant and dismissive, he ignores Louise’s advice not to interview go-getter Jez Connell (Amber McMahon), a former producer on his show, and now popular podcaster of “A Broadcast Coup” which investigates incident of harassment in the media sector. At first sight, we know her – smart, driven and takes no prisoners.

There are no prizes for guessing the outcome, but the characterisation and interaction is completely absorbing. Despite bare midriff and sneakers, gritty talk and social media savvy, Noa might accept the willing hand-maiden role in order to ascend the ladder, the exceedingly competent Louise might not take up the opportunity to advance herself when it is offered, and Troy might not renounce the mediation-resolution talk for actions not really palatable to him. We might be appalled but then how is possible that Noa can be so naïve, that Louise has been so blind to tragedy in her own home and that Troy does not see that his actions may avenge him personally but not change the workplace.

The problematic issues raised in the play can’t easily be resolved, and hence the continued relevance of Tait’s exploration. While we despise Mike’s inability to acknowledge the substantial contribution made by Louise to his long success, there is some discomfiting truth in what he says. He has “personality” – a compelling quality that attracts the adherence of others – and while contemporary emphasis falls on “teams” and cohesive “core values”, the contemporary elevation of “influencer” – an individual who has sway over a targeted audience – is not much different except in duration. Fittingly the play ends on a problematic note, so should it be seen as a happy ending, then maybe see the play again. It’s well worth it.

The actors were brilliantly cast and hugely convincing. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them so readily recognisable as representative but also compellingly individualised in moments of emotional turmoil. Congratulations also to Veronique Benett for her absolutely appropriate costuming and for an effective and easily adaptable set.

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