Thursday, 26 August 1999
Boneyard, Aug 26, 1999
by Mark O'Flynn and Anthony Lawrence
At La Mama until September 12, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
One of women's greatest fears is that men, when left to their own devices, resort to more primitive behaviour. Think about Lord of the Flies. Even little boys degenerated into raging, competitive beasts.
Both Golding's novel and The Boneyard (Mark O'Flynn & Anthony Lawrence) are fiction, but we pray neither are true examples of males in a group without females. If they are, it's time to leave this planet for a better place.
Lawrence and O'Flynn have written a play that vibrates with potential and actual male violence. Four men are incarcerated in the high security wing of a prison. Three are murderers, it seems.
Doyle (Neil Pigot) is a manic junkie with AIDS and some very bizarre behaviour. Cedric, (John Flaus) the model prisoner, is older and has found God since his imprisonment thirteen years earlier.
Sharpe (Hugh Sexton) is the most overtly frightening: a rat-like volatile animal who is "never to be released." Young Smith represents normality, echoing our own anxiety about being in a room with these caged creatures. He is in High Security for his own protection because he is an informer.
The play is compelling in parts, particularly the first half hour. It marries a gritty realism with some more poetic moments. This combination is, perhaps, the outcome of a collaboration between a theatre writer (O'Flynn) and a poet (Lawrence).
Characters are clearly drawn and dialogue is pithy, often hilarious and always surprising. Wendy Joseph's direction is brisk, shaping dynamic shifts with crisp scene changes.
The men are a strong ensemble that creates a diverse, peculiar group of misfit inmates. Pigot, winner of Best Fringe Actor 1998, is exceptional. He plays with relish, .the unpredictable, giggling and dissolute Doyle.
Sexton as Sharpe is terrifying and dangerous while Flaus is mild-mannered but slightly deranged as the born-again Cedric. Webster is suitably bemused and nervous as Smith. The only problem is that all three lapse into inaudibility on occasion. Their loutish foil is the 'screw', played with gleeful power by Matt Norman
The script falters mid-way, losing focus and direction, although it remains interesting in its detail. Perhaps this meandering is intended to reflect the endless prison days. But the play could be more effective with a more coherent narrative through-line.
by Kate Herbert