BWW Review: SAVAGES Is Brutal, Confronting, And Downright Terrifying In Its Honest Portrayal Of A Large Sector Of Australian Society.
Thursday 7th April 2016, 8pm, Eternity Playhouse, DarlinghurstDarlinghurst Theatre Company's production of Patricia Cornelius' SAVAGES is a timely analysis of the aggression and self-entitlement that bubbles beneath the surface of a scary portion of the male population. In a time where men fight at the slightest provocation, or no provocation at all, expect women to fall at their feet or force their will if they don't, this production shines a spotlight on a dark undertone that is more prevalent than many would wish to believe.
Drawing on the 2002 murder of Dianne Brimble onboard a P&O Cruise ship, Cornelius examines the misogynistic, destructive, culture that has created men that think that they are entitled to certain things in life. Whilst refraining from displaying actual violence, the 75 minute work, first staged in 2013, looks at the lives of four mates over the first day on a cruise. Cornelius has employed a repetition and poetry with a basis in an unsophisticated vocabulary to elevate the work to an examination rather than just a window on the society whilst ensuring the words are still something the men would use, even if the structure isn't. The repetition, like dogs that join in barking in response to another, and completing of each other's thoughts, ties in with a need to feel part of something. It highlights that, even though these 4 have not been close recently, they are all of a similar mind.
Director Tim Roseman and Movement Director Julia Cotton have drawn on the idea of common thoughts and beliefs in the use of the Production Designer Jeremy Allen's restricted space of an asymmetrical raised deck, backed by a curved black backdrop that gives the sense of depth. The men are, for the most part, kept together as a pack and following each other, only pulling away for more intimate self-expression or to confide in each other in pairs. Their physicality varies from somewhat 'normal', though still exhibiting a lack of refinement, to animalistic as they circle and 'hunt'. The various slopes of the stage allow for vertical variety and separation of members of the pack through location and lighting. Sian James-Holland's lighting and Nate Edmondson sound and music (composer and sound design) heighten the mood with blackouts and music signaling scene changes and a row of colored LED's within the portholes that line the rear wall changing the time of day and the tone of the scenes.
As the story evolves, the audience is initially drawn into a degree of sympathy for the men with a false sense that these are just lads with unfortunate backgrounds that want to escape from their disappointing lives for a few weeks. From Rabbit (Josef Ber), the husband and father in a blue collar job with a reputation with the ladies; Craze (Yure Covich), the divorced father that is still in love with his ex-wife despite the restraining order; George (Troy Harrison), a real estate agent who seems to be the more successful and morally sound member of the group; to Runt (Thomas Campbell), the smaller weaker man that still lives with his mother; all four have not achieved what they wanted to in life. From this, it unfolds though that there is an undercurrent of a belief that they "deserve" this holiday and that they aren't responsible for the hand that life has dealt them. They think that women should be falling at their feet and they feed of each other's energy, spiraling down into a depraved aggression.
Ber, Campbell, Covich and Harrison have ensured that their respective characters have a depth and present these vile men as recognizable people, not just beasts. As each character's backstory unfolds, we see that to a degree, they are products of their past with violent and abusive upbringings. The men give the audience an insight into the character's more sensitive side in their experience with love which also alludes to their belief that it is owed to them and lack of understanding of what real love is. Covich captures Craze's dangerous aggression and delusion as the most volatile of the group. Campbell presents the awkward Runt with the insecurity of being the butt of the men's jokes from their youth to the current day but also sensitivity that he trusts Craze because he views him as his best friend. As Rabbit, Ber presents the blue collar worker as seemingly normal to start, adding a bravado and entitlement as we learn that he is repeatedly cheating on his wife and a shame as it is revealed his moniker is a sham. Harrison portrays George, potentially the most 'successful' of the group as more 'together' than the rest with the potential to be better than the others until he believes he has been betrayed and then he sinks to the same dark dangerous levels as his friends.
Whilst for some of the audience, the existence of this type of man was a revelation, the focus on a lower class of society does not fully express the extent which this aggressive behaviour lurks underneath many different parts of society. The assaults on women and alcohol fueled aggression occurs at all levels of society, not just the singlet wearing bogans Cornelius has selected. The inclusion of George make a little effort to include the white collar society in the demographic of offenders but it isn't really prominent that the aggressive violence can occur in the swankiest of city bars filled with executives as it can in the suburban workers pubs.
SAVAGES is by no means an entertaining work but it is important in its content and window on society and hopefully those seeing it will seek to do more to reduce this sort of male culture that thinks that assault, violence and self-entitlement is ok. It is brutal and confronting, and for the audiences that thought the content was a revelation, it may have been beneficial, if not terribly harrowing, to show the extent which the men would go to to get what they want, a conclusion only alluded too. For audiences that have been at the receiving end of this type of aggression and negative attention, from women called names and worse by these types of men and other members of society picked on for who they are or simply just beaten up for the 'fun of it', this will be a traumatic work.
Eternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst
1 April - 1 May 2016