What happens when the offspring you have brought into the world in good faith, smothering it with love and guidance, turns out to be a monster? After years of cohabitation with your beloved creation, you suddenly are confronted one day with a teenage daughter or son who holds views and values that are anathema to your own? This is at the core of Fury by Joanna Murray-Smith and this Victorian premiere plumbs the pitfalls of parenting and everything that comes with managing the passions of youth.
It is not simply a lounge room drama about parents pitted against their child. The play cleverly explores many other aspects of reaching middle age. It shines the light on the effects of entitlement, how partnerships cope with bad news, how too much freedom can have the reverse effect and the niggling reality of social class.
All this is seamlessly woven into Murray-Smith’s play and the work shopping that has been done to it since its Sydney premiere in 2013 seems to have been worth it. It encourages you to check in with your moral compass and asks how would you cope with your own state of fury when confronted with a moral and social disaster.
Patrick (Joe Petruzzi) and his wife Alice (Danielle Carter) have reached middle-aged contentment. A comfy leather couch, a glass of wine and each other is all that’s needed for a pleasant Friday night in. Flirtatious exchanges and the promise of some mature lovemaking draw these two very career successful characters together. Alice has just finished her PhD and is getting a lot of media attention.
Suddenly this world is shattered with the news that their teenage son, Joe (Sean Rees-Wemyss) has committed a hate crime by defacing a mosque at 1am not far from their home. He and his friend Trevor are on a quest to show the world their disapproval of the Islamic religion and to inform everyone the world is now theirs to preside over; for him, his parents have had their time.
Dushan Philips takes on the role of deputy Head at Joe’s established private school. He delivers such hilarious lines; words that most teachers would want to say but yet would hold back for fear of enflaming the situation and for fear of causing more stress to the precious privileged student and the entitled parents. The role of the school in society and it responsibility to maintain moral values and administer consequences is examined, albeit briefly.
Joe’s partner in crime Trevor is never appears. His parents, Bob (Chris Connelly) and Annie (Shayne Francis) do. They are down to earth battlers, just happy that their son has enough sporting talent to gain a scholarship to Canterbury College. They are happy to hold opinions and courageous enough to voice them much to the exasperation of Patrick and Alice. The scenes with these parent couples are intriguing; what has one fought for and what does one hold dear when you reach middle age and come from different sides of the track? Francis steals the scenes with her droll and direct attitude.
The theme of anger is ever-present in this play and it propels the action along. Suppressing anger, displaying it, calming one’s anger. Built up anger explodes in many scenes. One especially well directed scene was the fight between Patrick and Alice about who had bolstered whom during their twenty years of marriage. Carter’s Alice is fiery, genuine and deadly honest. Petruzzi’s Patrick is measured, sensitive and he plays the wounded dog well.
The ending of the play is satisfying, although of course we are not offered answers or nothing in the rulebook of parenting is actually validated. We are left with pondering about the nature of youth and rebellion and Rees-Wemyss’ excellent performance enables this. His controlled acting skills and emotional moments with is parents are a highlight. Alice says in an early scene that fury propelled her in life. It is within those minutes of extreme anger one can think, plan and be honest with one.
Ella Caldwell and Brett Cousin co-direct this piece to great effect. When we first meet recalcitrant Joe earlier in the play, he is seated on the couch with his back to us. We, the audience, receive the full onslaught of the parents’ initial interrogation of why, why why? This is neat blocking, one example of many, establishes Joe as the every child.
Red Stitch brings Murray-Smith’s play to the Melbourne stage and both the young and the old will be left with much to contemplate from this play’s story.