See article in its original context here by Stephen A Russell for The Lowdownunder.
Stephen’s 2 Line Review – Savages – A Brutal, Yet Darkly Humorous Pick At The Scab Of Male Violence Against Women. A Searing Script is Commandingly Navigated By Deft Direction And Four Muscular Leads.
The stark, underground space of fortyfivedownstairs lends itself well to physically demanding theatre, given that actors have to manoeuvre a perpendicular audience, as well as four obstinate pillars, while delivering their performance.
Patricia Cornelius is no stranger to robust theatre, and her latest play, Savages, positively relishes the challenge. Directed by long-time collaborator Susie Dee, the text drips with a dark poetry that the four leads, Mark Tregonning, Lyall Brooks, James O’Connell and Luke Elliot, dance around with muscular charm and faultless timing.
As the play opens, hulking Craze (Tregonning), sex-addicted Rabbit (O’Connell), short-arse Runt (Elliot) and the elusive George (Brooks) embark on a cruse, hoping for the trip of a lifetime in order to cover up the barely concealed disappointment they keenly feel over their own personal lives.
An enormous sloped wooden deck crowned with railing dominates the tight stage, standing in for the cruise ship, with the four leads constantly pacing its decks. Whether boisterously working out, boxing, racing or dancing, somehow all four manage to overcome breathlessness to deliver each line pitch perfect in what is surely and arduous task.
While the audience is initially enticed by their bullish antics, tensions soon begin to boil, and it doesn’t take long for the facades to slip, allowing a distressing glimpse of deep-seated misogyny and a patriarchal pack mentality to creep out of the fissures. In these depressing political times, the resonance of Cornelius’ script is particularly charged.
Rabbit idolises his father as some kind of Superman, but his immediate example is to recall the time his dad hurled his mother across the room. Craze professes his love for his wife and kids, even as George points out he’s divorced and she got a restraining order against him. Runt lies compulsively to match up to his mates, and George, seemingly the quiet romantic, doesn’t resist when the men set out on a merciless prowl.
Drawn from the terrible events that led to the drug overdose death of Dianne Brimble on a cruise ship ten years ago, which led to no prosecutions, Cornelius cleverly avoids didacticism, instead initially beguiling the audience, drawing them into their larrikin stunts and bandying around a great deal of black humour, even as the wheels begin to fall off. Dee runs with the rich opportunities afforded, and the simple yet effective staging allows a mesmerising and simultaneously terrifying focus on the actors.
All four leads excel, with particular mention for the unsettling menace of Tregonning’s Craze, and a masterful ambiguity in Brooks’ realisation of George. All were unphased by a coupe of minor technical glitches, never faltering in their delivery of Cornelius’ rapid-fire dialogue. Savages makes for disturbing, yet utterly compelling, viewing.
Stephen A Russell
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