Review: The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You (Siren Theatre Co / Griffin Theatre Company)

griffinVenue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 18 – Jul 12, 2014
Playwright: Finegan Kruckemeyer
Director: Kate Gaul
Cast: Emily Ayoub, Renee Heys, Michael Cutrupi, Natalia Ladyko, Anthony Weir

Theatre review
Teenage life is difficult. In The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You, we observe that adults are really just teenagers covered in calluses. The essence of things do not change, but we lose our innocence, choosing to cope with the world by growing thicker skin wherever possible, and also to turn a blind eye whenever required. Connor and Lotte are younger and purer versions of us. They are old enough to detect and to call bullshit on offending circumstances, and young enough to remain unconvinced that evils are ever necessary. Their idealism is rarely a match for machines of the establishment, and Finegan Kruckmeyer’s writing invites us to lament the brevity of youth and to reflect upon the many years we live in states of compromise and imperfection, that we thoughtlessly term “growing up”.

Kate Gaul’s direction is a celebration of youth. Her creation is energetic, mischievous and very vibrant. Borrowing elements from children’s television and theatre, the production is joyfully buoyed by big characters, song and dance numbers, and colourful costumes. There is even shadow play, with the stage turning into an over-sized zoetrope on several occasions. Jasmine Christie’s production design and Daryl Wallis’ sound design help transform script into action. The show arrests our senses, providing an immersive experience that makes adventurous use of the theatrical form. We have lots to see and hear beyond the writer’s words. The spirit of collaboration is alive under Gaul’s stewardship.

Connor is played by Michael Cutrupi, whose portrayal of the teen spirit is amusing yet genuine. His sense of rebellious wonder is deeply appealing. We relate easily to his character, who bears qualities that are universally familiar. Anthony Weir is memorable for a host of personalities, all whacky and wonderful. Weir is able to make every line tickle, especially in song. His vocal abilities are limited, but his commitment as a comedic actor is outstanding. Renee Heys brings extraordinary passion and presence to her roles. She is a versatile actor who is effective, quiet or raucous, and her talents are showcased remarkably well in this production. Not every role gives much room for showing off, but every performer on this stage is focused, precise and strong.

The work ends abruptly. The narrative quickly turns serious, and the tonal transformation happens faster than we are able to adapt. It suddenly loses connection at the end, but the message can still be heard. The flaw is small but the opportunity for greater poignancy seems to have been missed. Regardless, Kruckemeyer’s writing concludes wisely and we are served up substantial food for thought. The play is meaningful for young and old, perhaps in different ways, but it contains truths that will resonate with every open heart.