Friday, 8 August 1997

Are You Evil Tonight? by Daniel Lillford, Aug 8 1997

Are You Evil Tonight? by Daniel Lillford
La Mama until August 31, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Aug 7, 1997

Pub. Herald Sun – Robin Usher ed.

How good it is to see a piece of theatre written, directed and acted with wit, truth and subtlety.  Are You Evil Tonight? by Daniel Lillford is just such a play.

Lillford continues his love affair with the dusty Texan desert in this play that has reverberations and reprises of themes and characters from previous plays. He uses isolated locale to examine under a microscope the twin-headed god of good and evil.

Like his beloved western movies, Lillford's good guy is also a bad guy with a heart and a spirit but his guy in the black hat or, in this case, the deputy's tin badge, has a black heart.

Tammy (Carolyn Bock) runs a truck stop way off the beaten track. She has no company except for her no-hoper brother, whom we never meet, and Joe (Chris Wallace) a Comanche tracker who is hunting a rogue coyote who is eating his goats. Tammy is single and lonely but not so desperate that she would marry Dan, the redneck deputy (Simon King).

Enter Matt, (Jeff Kovski) ex-marine who arrives on a motorbike carrying a secret and destined to become the good-bad guy who falls for the good-bad girl.

Lillford weaves magic with his narrative. His dialogue is pithy and laconic. He creates an atmosphere that is both evocative and provocative with its violence, bitterness and edginess. There is sex and love and fantasy to balance the wickedness of the irrational violence of Dan. The heat and dust of the Texan day and the chill of its night are palpable.

All four performances are three-dimensional and beautifully paced. Bock is like a wild Texas rose in her brittle, vulnerable portrayal of Tammy.  Kovski's stranger is wonderfully defensive but passionate, guarding his secrets jealously. The wisdom and irony of Wallace's Joe is a delightful foil for the other characters and King is artful in his brisk characterisation of the repulsive Dan.

There is another layer that is an allegory for Australia. Writing about Texas highlights issues of abuse and appropriation of land by invaders. The Native Americans are not alone in their confusion about whites believing they can own the land.
This is Lillford's swansong before he leaves us to live in Canada. Someone should have grabbed him before we gave away one of our finest locals. Farewell!


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