See article in its original context here by Stephen A. Russell for The Age.
Drawing on the death of Dianne Brimble on a P&O cruise ship more than 10 years ago, and the slew of sex scandals swirling around Australia’s football codes, award-winning playwright and novelist Patricia Cornelius explores the dark heart of man in her latest work, Savages.
Making its debut at fortyfivedownstairs next month, the play focuses on four mates, Rabbit, Runt, Craze and George, who embark on a holiday cruise of a lifetime that instead turns to tragedy. A cautionary tale, Savages explores what happens when men who cannot articulate personal disappointment behave appallingly, and the willingness of society to overlook or even condone this behaviour.
Cornelius says she wasn’t interested in lampooning these men, or engendering anti-male sentiment. ”I knew I had to seduce the audience with these bad fellows, otherwise why would you stay to the end?” she says. ”They’re not inherently evil. They’re sort of pathetic, and humorous. There’s a sweetness at times, not much, but you recognise these traits that we excuse in male behaviour, that larrikinism. The victim often becomes more victimised.”
Picking at the scab of exaggerated masculinity and entrenched misogyny, the play is delivered in a darkly poetic rhythm that electrifies, while positing the question: what happens when four men with pent-up frustrations are let loose on a ship, with too much booze and something to prove?
Cornelius extensively researched the Brimble case, in which the 42-year-old Brisbane mother of three died following an overdose of the date rape drug ”fantasy”. Her body was discovered on the floor of a cabin shared by four men, with a further four implicated, though none of the subsequent prosecutions ended in a jail term.
Taking cues from Rowan Woods’ 1998 film The Boys, Cornelius looks at just how easily mateship can lead to a pack mentality in the wrong circumstances.