Review: Britannia Waves The Rules (New Theatre)

newtheatre1Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 22 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Gareth Farr
Director: Deborah Mulhall
Cast: Vincent Andriano, Jane Angharad, Patrick Cullen, Alan Faulkner, Nick Rowe

Theatre review
This is a tale about the transformation of a poet into a soldier, but it is not a romantic journey that addresses our deluded need to see heroes emerging from wars. Gareth Farr’s Britannia Waves The Rules is quite the opposite. It talks about the ruling class’ persistent use of young men in poverty through generations, and the innocent lives sacrificed for the insatiable need of Western forces to invade. More than an anti-war piece, Farr’s writing is subversive and bold in its approach, and his protagonist Carl is a creation marvellously imagined and thorough in its embodiment of experience and truth. The distillation of the phenomenon of war into the private plight of a singular character is powerfully realised by the intimate nature of its speeches, dialogue and monologue, that seem to hail from a place of brutal and rare honesty.

Deborah Mulhall’s adventurous direction embraces the text’s poetic machismo to deliver a work that is wild and emotional, but also deeply sensitive in the way characters and relationships are established. In the role of Carl is Vincent Andriano, a turbulent presence that depicts anger, anxiety, fear, and sorrow with remarkable accuracy and energy. His highly dramatic interpretation is a beautiful accompaniment to the often introspective voice of the script, and we are transfixed from the very start to the bitter end. Also memorable is Nick Rowe, who plays Bilko with a dynamism that matches the lead’s. The chemistry between the two is intense and convincing, and the heartache that transpires is as authentic as it can get at the theatre. Performances are excellent in the production, all cleverly conceived and fluently executed.

As a collective, we understand things from an abstract perspective, and details are neglected, often deliberately hidden. Mainstream discourse does not reveal the personal losses that occur every day, but we must not stop talking about the ravages of war. Britannia Waves The Rules does not present any surprising facts. We already know that death is the currency of conflict and victory, but the way it tells the age old story of destruction is unusually poignant. It wants us to see that every young person sent to the battlefield is a son and daughter, and our brother and sister. As long as this keeps happening, the voices that oppose it must be heard.