Even people who aren’t particularly Arty™️ get into the Archibald. It’s Australia’s premiere art prize, awarded to “the best portrait… painted by an artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the [due] date”. It’s also central to Robert Gott’s new novel, Naked Ambition – kindly sent to me for review by my friends at Scribe.
This isn’t an art heist novel, though, or a literary exposé of the art world. Naked Ambition is a hilarious satire of Australian politics, skewering the egos of the privileged career politicians making decisions about our lives (while making messes of their own).
Gregory is an up-and-coming junior State minister, and (it goes without saying) a bit of a buffoon. He’s “constitutionally incapable of grasping the idea that anyone could dislike him” (page 4), according to his wife. He poses for a full-length nude portrait, and supports the eccentric artist’s decision to enter the painting in the Archibald.
He’s convinced everyone – the Premier, his mother, and his wife, included – will agree with this decision and admire his bold foray into the World of Art.
Naked Ambition had me howling with laughter. I’m particularly partial to Australian political satire, so I can’t promise everyone will find it as funny as I do – but it’s surely worth a try. With lines like “Australians don’t like their politicians with their clothes on, taking them off isn’t going to win you any votes,” (page 14), and “The scrotum is not a vote winner” (page 22), how could you not find the funny?
This short, sharp story takes place mostly in one room – Gregory’s living room, where the nude portrait is displayed in all its glory. That, with the snappy dialogue, would make Naked Ambition an excellent (and hilarious) play, in my humble opinion. Australian playwrights, I call on you to make it happen, immediately. I’ll be there in the front row on opening night! In the meantime, I can’t recommend Naked Ambition highly enough, especially to fans of Oscar Wilde.
Buy Naked Ambition on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)