Review: The Share
by Daniel Keene
Directed by Corey McMahon
Presented by five.point.one
spent Friday at the very interesting National Multicultural Arts Symposium at Nexus Multicultural Arts, subtitled Diversity: Theory and Action. Which was filled with some very interesting discussions (and some not so interesting, but there you go), and that deserves its own blog post, but which lead to some odd feelings when I went to see five.point.one’s production of Daniel Keene’s The Share. After a day of talks about how we need to encourage a more diverse arts base in Australia, I sat down to watch a play written by white Australian male, directed by a white Australian male, and staring three white Australian males. I don’t know if I would’ve even noticed before, and I certainly am not criticizing the casting or anything, but it did drive the point home how very homogenous the arts are in this country.
This review originally appeared on Australian Stage Online
Before walking into the Bakehouse Theatre, we were treated to a list of cautions about the production, perhaps longer than the warnings you would receive before going on a rollercoaster. Certainly the most extensive warning list I’ve ever come across before entering a theatre, and not the usual warnings, either. There was no smoking, or smoke machines, or strobe lighting, but the play does deal with some deeply disturbing issues, and the 16+ age restriction is not to be taken lightly. While the production is certainly worth making it through the darkness, his is not a play for kids, for the faint of heart or easily offended. As my own warning: this review does talk about the plot, so it is spoiler heavy, and, as is advised by five.point.one, contains references to events which some people may find distressing.
Tex (Scott Marcus) and Sugar (Matt Crook) are not quite homeless, living together in a bare room, yet they certainly have no money. But Sugar heard from a kid (Cameron Pike) about a drug dealer who walks the streets with his pig-dog: the perfect target for Tex andSugar to attack, with intent to kill and steal money. The conversation between Tex and Sugar that starts off Daniel Keene’s script is fantastically funny, and the close relationship and tension between the two characters –Tex with the strength and power in the relationship, yetSugar with the knowledge – brings a deep interest in the characters as these two men discuss the best way to kill a dog with a shovel. Corey McMahon directs these moments of Keene’s script with great balance; moments of tension and abuse are still supported by great moments of humour.
After the deed is done, the two men buy the kid a beer to celebrate, and it is here that the mood of the play shifts, and the warnings about the subject matter comes into play. The kid tells Tex and Sugar about George, a young boy who carries takings from his uncle’s underground gambling game home from school in his backpack. In a bid to impress Tex and Sugar, the kid – perhaps no more than sixteen – then explicitly details how he has repeatedly sexually abused and raped George. As a response to this, after a mask of friendship, Tex beats up and maims the kid.
The depictions of violence in the play were tense and graphic, yet McMahon avoided using fake blood except on costuming, and, helped by the bare production design by Cassandra Backler, the production was better for that decision. The design of the set turned the theatre into a thrust stage, rather than its traditional end-on-configuration, which meant depending on your position in the audience, some shots looked more measured and faked than others, yet the trade off from this slight loss of realism in the fights was worth it for the proximity to the actors.
The enclosed performance space allows the audience to appreciate the most of the three actors’ performances.Crook is kind of adorable in his nervous and slightly dim-witted character, and his facial expressions (both the subtle and the glaringly obvious) made an endearing character, even for all of the horrible things which happen in the play; the strength and brute force in Marcus was made all the more confronting when you’re placed half a meter from him; and Pike’s awkwardness and squeamishness seemed to get under my skin, and I just really wanted to have a shower. The lighting design by Ben Flett highlighted the tension between the men, although at times the light wasn’t used to its full advantage. These are three actors still at the beginnings of their careers, but they are starting on a strong ground.
The Share was a shocking and confronting night out. And while Keene certainly doesn’t steer away from these terrible issues, and is tackling them head on, he does so with a beauty of language and script – even through the abundance of swearing and crude language, Keene still finds poetry. McMahon has understood this beauty of language, and above all else has made it the most important element, emphasized through the use of pauses, silence, and live music, performed and designed by Luke Ashby. When used as punctuation the music tended to become a bit overbearing, but otherwise it again helped to highlight the tension, and it was great to have live music performed in the theatre.
I left the theatre with a strange sense: I’d just seen a production which left me feeling deeply disturbed – and writing this review has not been easy, either – yet I felt invigorated by a well produced and challenging script. This is the South Australian premiere of the script, and ultimately, this is the kind of work I want to see more of on our stages: work that is challenging, that is confronting, that is well written, and is Australian. If these what you want to see on your stages, Adelaide, go and support this work and five.point.one.
On another note, thanks to the staff at The Bakehouse, and Corey McMahon for making me feel rather fancy in my reviewer shoes. The introductions, the information pack, and the seats were a lovely addition to the evening. Even if the seats meant I was sitting almost opposite Corey: because that didn’t make me feel awkward, and I am even more thankful that I enjoyed the show, so I didn’t have to worry we would inadvertently catch eyes while I was wanting desperately to escape. Not that I ever feel like that in theatres. Certainly not.