A Vibrant Corpus:
David Williamson's 'Corporate Vibes'
Sue McKell

Queensland Theatre Company, Optus Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane, 1 May 1999

19 May 99

Bit 1 True to its title, David Williamson's latest comedy, Corporate Vibes, presents a well-informed view on the contradictions that exist between management theory and business practices. Placing as its central theme a conflict between the traditional autocratic mode of management and modern 'touchy-feely' schools of intervention, Corporate Vibes provides a running commentary on the effect of idealist organisational theory within the practical reality of corporate power structures. Rather than offering a neat solution as to the validity of either school of management style, Corporate Vibes presents a complex account of the interplay between the old and new, with an added dose of intra-corporate romance for good measure.
Bit 2 Siddons Residential is a Sydney property development company established and run by iron-fisted Sam Siddons (William Zappa) - the play's Sydney focus hints at Sydney's current pre-Olympic residential squeeze (think 'the winner is ... Siddon-ey') and is particularly topical given the proliferation of blinding yet bland yuppie developments along North Quay's Opera House walk. Sam's answer to falling sales within the over-priced and over-kitsched development market is to fire the architect, along with the marketing and sales managers. In Sam's absence, however, the obsequious but well-meaning Manager (Andrew McFarlane) hires a human relations officer, Deborah (Lydia Miller), including a clause in her contract that prohibits any staff sackings without her agreement. In this way, Deborah becomes central to the story of Corporate Vibes - her "caring" and "inclusive" policies offering an ironic point of juxtaposition against the hard-edge approach of Sam Siddon. Together, Deborah and the soon-to-be-exiles work towards the utopian ideal of affordable, architecturally distinct accommodation for the masses in order to test their own limits of self-actualisation against that of Sam's.
Bit 3 William Zappa is shudderingly real as the embodiment of an egotistical corporate dictator who sees all the company's problems as stemming from the inherent incompetence of (other) employees. Pitted against him is the technically inferior acting of Lydia Miller, whose voice over-projection propelled the play from comedy into farce at times. Of particular interest was Caroline Kennison as the sardonic architect, showing her suitability in the role as she twisted and turned her way through sarcasm, cynicism and emotional desperation. Zappa and Kennison give thoroughly enjoyable performances within David Williamson's familiar brand of social commentary humour.
Bit 4 Corporate Vibes is staged within a minimalist theme, providing a suitable canvas for the dialogue-dependent comedy. However, the almost complete lack of costume changes, while highlighting the continuity of work, tends to confuse temporal changes of days and even years, working to detract from character development, instead of placing the focus here. Williamson's additions of intra-corporate romances ironically (or is that sarcastically?) centre around the equal opportunity officer, whose affairs in and around Siddons Residential apparently work to advance her status. Such a stereotyped portrayal of women in the workplace, along with other examples of stereotyped feminine preoccupations with the personal, beg to question whether Williamson is more interested in merely reflecting rather than challenging sexist corporate stereotypes and Australian corporate sexism in general. Despite such qualifiers, however, Robyn Nevin's last directorial foray before her departure from the Queensland Theatre Company is a satisfying success.

Bit 5 Details

Corporate Vibes.
Playwright: David Williamson.
Company: Queensland Theatre Company.
Director: Robyn Nevin.
Set Designer: Steven Curtis.
Cast: William Zappa, Lydia Miller, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Caroline Kennison, Kelly Butler, Olivia Pigoet, Andrew McFarlane.
Venue: Optus Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane, 1 May 1999.

Bit 6 Citation reference for this article

MLA style:
Sue McKell. "A Vibrant Corpus: David Williamson's 'Corporate Vibes'." M/C Reviews 19 May 1999. [your date of access] <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/events/vibes.html>.

Chicago style:
Sue McKell, "A Vibrant Corpus: David Williamson's 'Corporate Vibes'," M/C Reviews 19 May 1999, <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/events/vibes.html> ([your date of access]).

APA style:
Sue McKell. (1999) A vibrant corpus: David Williamson's 'Corporate vibes'. M/C Reviews 19 May 1999. <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/events/vibes.html> ([your date of access]).

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