Thursday, 20 September 2007

Brave Men Run In Our Family , Sept 20. 2007

 Brave Men Run In Our Family 
by Scott Rankin
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on  Sept 23, 2007

In abbreviated theatrical form, the life of Peter Brocklehurst is the basis of Brave Men Run In Our Family written and directed by Scott Rankin. 

To many people Brocklehurst is better known as the singing cobbler who was discovered singing classical arias in his shoe repair shop.

A biography does not always follow a simple dramatic arc rising to a single peak so Rankin focuses on Brocklehurst’s early family life and his discovery of classical singing. Rankin presents the entire story through the eyes of Brocklehurst’s younger sister (Kerry Armstrong) but Brocklehurst does not speak but intermittently sings songs from both his classical and rock repertoire. Pianist Rosa Scaffidi  accompanies the show.

Armstrong is moving and passionate narrating episodes of the dislocated, dysfunctional childhood that Brocklehurst shared with his sister. The Brocklehursts came to Australia as 10 pound Poms and lived an itinerant life of hardship and homelessness. The parents and six children lived out of their family car, running from town to town as dad took yet another fruit picking or labouring job.

The stories Armstrong tells are dark, depicting a troubled, traumatic and insecure childhood that includes one horrific episode of sexual abuse at the hands of a stranger. Rankin’s rendition of these stories is in poetic language that at times heightens the atmosphere.  At others it obscures the narrative and meaning with rather cryptic lyricism.

Brocklehurst is a constant presence on stage, a reminder of the relationship between Peter the child, and the man that he became. He moves slowly around the almost empty stage, occasionally disappearing behind the sheer curtains or perching on a bench. His voice is present throughout the show as he sings his favourite songs and those that capture moments from his life.

In the second half Brocklehurst seems to relax after a nervous and rather rigid beginning. His most successful songs are the rich and impassioned classical Italian arias in which he ardently employs voice, body and emotion to convey his passion and commitment to the music. His powerful upper register is compelling but he seemed to have some trouble with his lower register early in the show and when singing pianissimo.

He gleefully sings rock classics such as Elvis’s Hound Dog and Roy Orbison’s Crying and really comes to life when he approaches the audience to participate in That’s Amore.

Brave Men Run tells Brocklehurst’s rags to riches story with sensitivity and poignancy.

By Kate Herbert

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