Review: Big Crow (Brave New Word Theatre Company)

bravenewwordVenue: Pulse Group Theatre (Redfern NSW), Feb 21 – Mar 4, 2017
Playwright: Mark Langham
Director: Barry Walsh
Cast: Amylea Griffin, Charles Jones, Ben Maclaine, Jodine Muir, Liam Smith
Image by David Hooley

Theatre review
Many of us have felt the urge to kill our bosses, at one time or another. We may be able to operate under authority on most days, but human nature has its limits when kept under tight control. Tommy and Albert were Londoners brought to Australia in the 1930’s. Fed up with slave-like conditions, they decide to capture their employer in an effort to turn their fortunes around. Based on a true story, Mark Langham’s Big Crow features five contrasting personalities, each with their own distinct proclivities. The play sets up a fascinating context for their interactions, and even though the stakes at play are high, the sparks that fly are minute and momentary.

It is a plot that struggles to find focus, with competing narratives fighting for our attention. We are intrigued by the theatrical temperament of its characters, but their individual stories all seem too vague and under-cooked. What they reveal of themselves only teeter on the brink of something enticing and salacious, never really bringing us to a satisfying epiphany. Director Barry Walsh’s attempts at manufacturing an atmosphere of violence and brutality helps provide some visceral drama to the piece, and although some of the acting is convincing (Charles Jones and Jodine Muir are its saving grace), the show offers little that would allow us to connect.

When Peg discovers her husband tied up, about to be slaughtered, she reacts with an unexpected sadistic delight. The show is on, and like Peg, we wait for something to happen that would deliver thrills and enlightenment. When our expectations are not met, we can look back for what might have been missed, or we can move forward in search of the inevitable next opportunity.