Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 11 December 2015
Ryan, Dec 10, 2015 ***1/2
Dickins La Mama
Courthouse, until Dec 20, 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts on Fri Dec 12, 2015
Syd Brisbane pic by Sarah Walker
Ryan is a poignant and poetical monologue that leaves one rejoicing that
capital punishment is a thing of the past in Australia.
Dickins’ second theatrical observation about the hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967,
the first being Remember Ronald Ryan, Dickins’ play that won The Victorian
Premier’s Literary Award in 1995.
Syd Brisbane looks
vulnerable and alone on a stark platform resembling the gibbet at Pentridge
Gaol where Ryan was hanged for killing prison officer, George Hodson, during
Ryan and Peter Walker’s 1965 escape.
This play is
not an academic analysis of hanging but an emotive, painful and intimate story
told by a man in the final last hour before death ties a rope around his neck
and drops him through a trapdoor.
heightens the anguish and despair of Ryan, balancing lyrical, metaphorical
language with Dickins’ inimitable, wry comic style that, in this case, is
literally gallows humour.
Lammin’s direction effectively focuses on the fraught, inner world of Ryan’s
mind and Brisbane captures the ramblings of this childlike man as he wrestles
with the incomprehensible notion of imminent death.
compelling as Ryan, pacing in the dim light of his cell, praying to his
Catholic God for forgiveness, hoping for clemency from Victorian Premier, Henry
Bolte, who thinks – says Ryan – that the execution will ensure he wins the 1967
election in a landslide – which he does.
his crimes of theft, insists that he did not shoot Hodson and that they were
friends, reminisces about his loving mother and agonises over the distress
suffered by his three daughters.
In a heart-wrenching
and ghastly scene, Brisbane as Ryan describes step by agonising step the mental
and physical horrors as he is hustled from the condemned cell, marched to the
gibbet where he is hooded and hanged.
are like a perpetual keening, an ode to mourning and a reminder that the murder
of a murderer does not make murder right.
The final 10
minutes, although powerful in tone and content, contain some unnecessary
repetition of parts of Ryan’s story.
Dickins is a much-loved
writer and his passionate commitment to language and to social justice are
primary in this new tribute to Ronald Ryan.