45 Downstairs in Flinders Lane has become the go-to space for some of Melbourne's freshest and most dynamic theatre.
Recent plays such as ‘Savages’ By Patricia Cornelius and Thérèse Radic’s ‘Café Scheherazade’ highlight both important political and personal journeys; these new works will surely become time capsules to absorb and dissect for years to come.
Presented by the Larrikin Ensemble Theatre, ‘Boy Out Of The Country’ by Felix Nobis is no exception.
Helmed by a veteran cast of five, regional Victoria’s desperate economic underbelly is sliced open for all to see. A humble family is divided by past indiscretions, clutching honor to their chests, yet possessing an unyielding drive for a better future.
Spare set design cleverly adds to the competitive tone, with actors pushing furniture prior to starting onto the stage like giant chess pieces. Let the games begin.
Throwing us immediately into the story, sibling tension is established early. Punches have already been thrown; the show opens in a holding cell run by the chief of police (Chris Bunworth).
Like the rival brothers in Sam Shepard’s True West, Gordon (Matt Dyktynski) and Hunter (Martin Blum) blur the dubious lines between good and bad.
Hunter, returning to his childhood home after a mysterious seven – year absence, finds chaos at his feet. His older brother, Gordon, is closing plans to sell up the family property and have it subdivided as part of a greater housing scheme. Meanwhile, his mother has been abandoned in a run down apartment.
As with any morality play, all good things come with a heavy price.
Expertly paced and constructed, this latest variation on The Prodigal Son is told in our very own backyard. Nobis’ words have a cadence not unlike other Australian playwrights, Hannie Rayson or Andrew Bovell. Above all, this is a memory piece in tribute to a more innocent time.
Tight co-direction by Nobis and Fleur Kilpatrick allows its swift ninety – minute running time to cover a lot of territory. Quickly drawing the audience in, deep secrets and long – forgotten affairs are simultaneously brought to the fore. Having said that, it would be unfair to reveal how both elements are interconnected without spoiling the plot.
‘Boy Out Of The Country’ is at its strongest, particularly when Nobis’ characters play off each other’s disappointments and dreams, sometimes recapping the same story a generation apart.
This is best illustrated in two separate segments.
One is between Jane Clifton as the boys’ mother, Margaret, and Amanda LaBonte as Gordon’s wife, Rachel. The other is when the brothers describe their backyard playground as a childhood utopia.
Original musical interludes composed by Bang Mango Cools add to the regional flavour of the story.
Fusing high drama with laugh-out-loud comedy, ‘Boy Out Of The Country’ is a solid evening’s entertainment.