Friday, 18 November 2016

Rust and Bone, Nov 17, 2016 ***

By Caleb Lewis, adapted from Craig Davidson’s stories, La Mama 
La Mama Courthouse, until Nov 27, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Thurs Nov 17, 2016
Stars: *** 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Nov 18, 2016 & later in print. KH
 L-R  Glenn Maynard, Luke Mulquiney, Adam Ibrahim - image Daisy Noyes
 Three men confront violence and adversity in the short play, Rust and Bone, adapted by Caleb Lewis from three short stories by Canadian writer, Craig Davidson.

Lewis’s play, directed by Daniel Clarke and performed in the round, begins with each character telling his story in isolation, but the three stories become interwoven and the actors shift rapidly between roles in each other’s world.

James (Luke Mulquiney) has a respectable office job but, in his private life, he trains fighting dogs in a cruel training regime, his latest fighter being a snarling Pit-Bull called Matilda that is no match for the huge and seasoned Rottweiler she faces.

Eddie (Glenn Maynard), a punch-drunk, 40-year old boxer dealing with shattered bones in his hands and increasingly dangerous head injuries, is plagued by guilt about a long-past accident.

The third tale deals with Ben (Adam Ibrahim), a brash and athletic young man who trains, feeds and swims with a whale – until that same whale takes off Ben’s leg, leaving him an angry and despairing amputee.

Clarke’s direction is imaginative and muscular, maintaining a brisk pace as the men prowl around the edges of the square, clinical performance space (design by Jacob Battista), leaping on and off the platform as if it were a boxing ring.

Clarke punctuates the dialogue with choreographed shadowboxing and sudden, alarming grunts that accompany the punches, making the space feel dangerous and elevating the sense of risk facing these men in their violent worlds.

As each man’s situation becomes more desperate or more urgent, the pace quickens, the dialogue becomes more fragmented and their three stories hurtle towards their inevitable ends.

The actors address the audience directly much of the time, and their performances are committed, although not exceptional, each exploring the darkness of his character and plunging into the physicality of the role.

The weaknesses in the acting are more obvious when the actors play characters in each other’s stories and the performances are less than convincing.

Battista’s wood and opaque, perspex design provides a stark, icy platform for the action and Clarke uses its in-the-round design to give the audience intimate and sometimes disquieting proximity to the characters.

The three stories in Rust and Bone merge to create an effective whole that is emotive and disturbing in its portrayal of three men in a violent world.

By Kate Herbert

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