Friday, 11 December 2015

Ryan, Dec 10, 2015 ***1/2

By Barry 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

Barry Dickins’ Ryan is a poignant and poetical monologue that leaves one rejoicing that capital punishment is a thing of the past in Australia.

Ryan is 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.

Dickins’ writing 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.

Daniel 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.

Brisbane is 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.

Ryan remembers 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.

Dickins’ words 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.

By Kate Herbert

Syd Brisbane pic by Sarah Walker

No comments:

Post a Comment