We’ll go down together: Belvoir’s Brothers Wreck

This is not an easy play to write about. Nor should it be. Of all the subjects and issues which can and remain taboo in the contemporary world, it is two essential inviolable truths which remain the most potent and prohibitively awkward to discuss openly, honestly, truthfully: death, and sex. Yet, bizarrely, they are two constants, along with birth, which we all experience during our lives. As Leah Purcell writes in her director’s note, “death is a universal subject and this play will affect anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one, more so for those who have experienced the loss through suicide. And, in particular to this story, youth suicide – this act knows no colour, it touches us all. What this play asks is: how do people deal with death?” How do we talk about death, to each other, to ourselves, as individuals and as a society?
Before a production commences, I always try to read the program notes – not so much in the hope that they’ll explain what I am about to see, but so that like reading the introduction in a book, I am aware of the context or ideas in the piece. The hardest thing about reading Jada Alberts’ writer’s note is just how personal a story this is, how very much a part of her it is, and there is no disguising it nor apology made for the content of Brothers Wreck which unfolds here on Belvoir’s Upstairs stage.


Fish are jumping: STC's Mojo

Written in 1995, Jez Butterworth’s Mojo is often credited with reviving the urban gangster genre, typified in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Now almost twenty years old, the play has lost none of its youthful exuberance and swagger, its rock’n’roll charm and its classic downward spiral of a revenge thriller-tragedy. Presented here by Sydney Theatre Company, Mojo is the story of a group of would-be teddy-boy petty criminals in 1950s London, with the stars of fame, fortune and success firmly in their eyes.


Point of view: THE RABBLE’s Cain and Abel

We are told Cain and Abel is “a show about violence and reinventing history, made by women.” We are told Melbourne theatre-makers THE RABBLE are “a law unto themselves.” We are told their method is “basically to take a big idea, lock themselves in a room, and make a piece of theatre.” We are told many things, but somehow this production, presented at Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre by Melbourne group THE RABBLE with Belvoir, falls short of being the thrilling visceral and emotional wallop we were expecting (and told to expect).


Don’t judge me: Griffin’s Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography

From the promotional blurb and with a title like Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, you could perhaps be forgiven for expecting, well, just about anything. Contrary to popular belief, the play has very little to do with the actual physicality of pornography than with the repercussions or perceived stigma that accompanies it (Griffin has issued a disclaimer on their website, apologising for the lack of pornography in the production). True, one character does download eight gigabytes of hardcore pornography, but it is an incidental (albeit crucial) detail in Declan Greene’s bold, uncompromising and fearless play, co-presented here by Griffin and Perth Theatre Company.
If you’ve ever been the Griffin’s Stables theatre, you’ll know there’s nowhere to hide on that tiny diamond stage – for performers, or for the audience. In Greene’s play – as in Lee Lewis’ direction and Matthew Marshall’s lighting, this intimacy and all-seeingness is amplified; the house-lights stay up for most of the seventy-minutes’ running time, and are carefully calibrated to subliminally draw us into moments of unexpected honesty.


Lend me your ear: The Vanguard’s William Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs

It has been often said that Shakespeare, with Titus Andronicus, had a Tarantino phase, but did Tarantino have a Shakespeare phase? This production, presented by Russall S. Beattie and playing for four (k)nights at Newtown’s The Vanguard, sets out to test this hypothesis, and the result is nothing short of outrageously enjoyable, sitting somewhere between parody, homage, and an Elizabethan revenge thriller. Written and directed by Steven Hopley, it does not seek to replicate Tarantino’s film on stage (as with Strictly Ballroom The Musical), but instead renders Tarantino’s screenplay into iambic pentameter, featuring many subtle quotations of Shakespeare’s own words, clever assimilations of Elizabethan blank verse, as well as three Elizabethanised pop songs, sung by Key William, the in-house bard.
The story, as in Tarantino’s film, remain intact, so too do the ‘Dogs,’ styled here as bandit knights, perfect strangers to one another, hired to rob a casket of precious jewels from a coach on its way to the King. When their heist is thwarted, it becomes apparent that one of them must be an officer in disguise. The six knights – Sirs Blue, Orange, Brown, Blonde, Pink, and White – are here a motley collection of swaggering fellows, clad in leather doublet jackets, breeches, and boots, wearing daggers at their belts, with temperaments as roguish as their deeds. Along with Lord Joseph, Pleasant-Fellow Edward, Holdaway and an Officer, Hopley expertly adapts Tarantino’s chamber-ensemble into a sweaty and heady concoction of revenge, best served cold.