Theatre review: Off the Record, New Theatre

A #MeToo exploration of power and sexual assault is realistically portrayed.

If you’re interested in another take on the complexities of the post #MeToo era, then Off the Record fits the bill. It is a well-told story in the form of a series of two-hander vignettes, which allows for the intricacies of the various positions of the characters to be developed with a degree of nuance appropriate to the subject matter.

The clean, well-organised vignette structure is held together by strong, considered, insightful performances under the skilled direction of Jess Davis. Playwright Chris Aronsten’s script is tight and well-paced. There is plenty of witty dialogue and humorous moments that land successfully. The more serious moments are equally impactful, when the audience bears witness to the raw struggles of protagonist Jenny (Michaela Noonan), as she faces a series of personal and professional reckonings. 

The host of a tabloid-style current affairs television program, Jenny’s personal battle with alcoholism has threatened to derail her once highly successful career. The drama centres on Jenny as she grapples with how to handle leaked accusations of sexual misconduct against a high-profile CEO, Tony Trevelan (Joe Clements) who heads an international aid agency. The audience is taken along with Jenny as she proceeds to uncover the truth and expose Tony, while questions are posed relating to sexual assault, power and personal ethics. 

Alongside the #MeToo theme, Jenny is dealing with a serious alcohol addiction, which causes her to end up in hospital after another major car accident. Her alcoholism is realistically and believably portrayed by the playwright, director and Noonan, whose charming, high-energy performance never lets up for the entirety of the show.

Jenny teams up with Janine, a neurotic conspiracy theory dabbling accountant from Tony’s firm, who has been dealing with the accusations of abuse from female employees at the organisation. The pair form an unlikely alliance as they put themselves on the line to uncover the truth and bring Tony to justice. Suzann James nails her performance as the highly anxious Janine, who, along with Jenny, faces the mental and emotional consequences of fighting for the truth in the face of difficult structural barriers.  

The ample stage of the New Theatre allowed for several separate settings, each of which mutate into a few variations so that TV studio, living rooms, bus journeys and 12-step meetings are all stageable with minimal movement of props and set. Minimal lighting serves more to highlight areas of the stage and to hint at the nature of the place being portrayed rather than being used as a device to accentuate the drama. 

Read: Dance review: Shifting Perspectives, Queen’s Theatre

This world premiere of Off The Record season finishes up at the New Theatre on 5 August so get a ticket to this compelling new show.

Off the Record by Chris Aronsten
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown, Sydney

Director: Jess Davis
Set Designer: David Marshall-Martin
Lighting Designer: Mehran Mortezaei
Sound Design: Scott Gabutto/Matthew van den Berg
Vision Designer: Verica Nikolic
Assistant Director: Matthew van den Berg
Stage Manager: Scott Gabutto
: Georgina Moore
Cast: Joe Clements, Gina Cohen, Belinda Hoare, Suzann James, Michela Noonan, Chad Traupmann

Tickets: $25-$35

Off the Record will be performed until 5 August 2023.

Sarah Liversidge is a journalist and writer from Melbourne with various obsessions including politics, social issues and art in all its forms. She is currently completing a journalism degree at RMIT university where she is an editor at the student run publication, The Swanston Gazette.