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.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Jack Charles V the Crown, Nov 16,15, 2016 ***
THEATRE By Jack Charles &
John Romeril, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Nov 20,
2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Wed Nov 16, 2016. & later in print. KH
Uncle Jack Charles
Uncle Jack Charles, a Koori elder, indigenous activist and
actor, openly admits that he has been a
heroin addict and career burglar for much of his 70 years and that he spent 20
years of his life, on and off, in Victorian prisons.
You’d think it
might be a stretch (excuse the pun) to sympathise with such a flawed character,
a man who was relentlessly bent on destroying people’s peace of mind by
burgling their houses, but Jack Charles reformed his ways late in life – and his
charm and delight at being with an audience is infectious.
apologises – in a fictional appeal to the High Court of Australia, when he
presents his case to have his criminal record expunged so his life can continue
unhampered by the restrictions that apply to a convicted criminal. As he says
himself, it is unlikely to happen.
In his show, Jack Charles V the Crown, Charles
looks like a grey-woolly-haired pixie with a wide smile and a deep, resonant
voice that sounds of rust and dust and hidden pain.
delight under-laid with melancholy, Charles addresses the audience directly for
much of the show, relating anecdotes of his happier, early life in care, then
in foster care then, later, in a punishing Boys’ Home where abuse was rife.
Charles is dwarfed by enormous images of himself projected on a huge screen
behind him, showing excerpts from Bastardy, the 2008 documentary about his life
in which he bares all, revealing his heroin use, his list of crimes, arrests
and court appearances.
In telling the unpalatable details of his life as a
Stolen child, his subsequent trauma and his later addiction, crimes and incarceration,
Charles’ dialogue, written with John Romeril, effectively merges poetic
language with Charles’ disarming, amusing and conversational style and direct
Rachael Maza directs the show with a gentle hand that
allows Charles’ mischievous character to shine as he works on a pottery wheel, talks
about running ceramics workshops in prisons, about meeting his unknown siblings
and mother, accepting his sexuality, dealing with past trauma, facing addiction
and working as an actor on stage and screen.
He was prisoner 3944, and his life, he quips,
consisted of, ‘Acting, drugs, burgs and jail time. Acting, drugs, burgs and
jail time’ – and repeat.
Charles is not alone on stage, but three musicians join
him (Nigel Maclean, Phil Collings, Malcolm Beveridge), underscoring his stories
with evocative sound and accompanying Charles as he plays guitar and sings a
few of the country music songs he loves.
Jack Charles V the Crown is not perfect theatre, but
it has heart and, despite his obvious flaws, Uncle Jack Charles may win over
even the hardest critic – perhaps even the High Court?