Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), May 24 – Jun 22, 2014
Playwright: Jada Alberts
Director: Leah Purcell
Actors: Cramer Cain, Lisa Flanagan, Rarriwuy Hick, Hunter Page-Lochard, Bjorn Stewart
Image by Brett Boardman
Jada Alberts’ play is about family, poverty and depression. It is also a coming-of-age story about masculinity in Australia’s Northern Territory. Alberts’ characters are lively and refreshing, with a vernacular that is rarely heard on our stages, yet it accurately reflects the way many of us speak in daily lives. The play has a charming realism. It makes the familiar seem fascinating, and regular people become interesting.
Lisa Flanagan plays Petra, a vibrant woman of substance. Flanagan’s presence is immediate and robust, and she plays her role with great precision and versatility. Her sharply confident comic timing introduces an excellent levity, and her tears leave a lasting impression. The clear highlight of the show however, is Hunter Page-Lochard’s performance as lead character Ruben. Ruben is an underprivileged young man receiving psychotherapy treatment after becoming embroiled in a traumatic event. Unable to acknowledge and verbalise his emotions, Ruben’s grief manifests in destructive behaviour, resulting in disharmony at home and discord with local authorities. Page-Lochard inhabits his character to astonishing authenticity. His use of voice, movement and facial expressions present a level of believability that is deeply impressive, and powerfully captivating . There is also a sense of drama and tension in his work that demonstrate a natural propensity for the actor to entertain and connect. Page-Lochard is interested in portraying something truthful, but is also mindful of showmanship. To find that fabulous combination in a young indigenous actor is incredibly exciting.
Direction by Leah Purcell places emphasis on the quality of performances. There is an obvious purity and sincerity in the actors’ work, and the ensemble chemistry provides a beautiful closeness to the family being depicted on stage. Purcell, like Alberts, sensitively crafts an effective realism, but the play lacks a certain theatricality to elevate it from our everyday mundanity. The script requires greater tension and suspense, and both director and playwright could experiment with more imaginative devices to engage us more creatively. A great deal of depth is established in the play’s characters and relationships, but a more adventurous approach to telling their stories would give them more dimension and dynamism.
It is important that stories like Brothers Wreck are told. We need to learn about the underclasses and they must always be given a platform to represent their perspectives, and to develop their artistry. Young men like Ruben are damaged not by nature, but by our sociopolitical dysfunctions. It is a most pressing priority for our nation, that their voices be found, and be emboldened.