In Nick Enright’s Blackrock, teenager Toby Ackland is having a party to celebrate his birthday near the local surf club. And while that might mean lots of booze, drugs and good clean fun, by morning, a young girl is dead, having been raped and bashed by three boys.
An understandably confronting piece of theatre, Blackrock premiered in 1995 and, in 1997, became a feature film. The play was adapted from Enright’s earlier work, A Property of the Clan, inspired by the 1989 murder of 14-year-old Leigh Leigh in Stockton, Newcastle. This Thursday, Blackrock returns to the stage in Sydney in a new production presented by The Seymour Centre and White Box Theatre.
Talking about the origins of the work, director Kim Hardwick tells Theatre People that Enright initially declined the offer to write a piece inspired by the Stockton murder.
“My understanding is that … he wasn’t sure he actually wanted to write something inspired by this real-life incident. But eventually, he said yes because he felt that there was something broader to say about the way females and males behave and our culture of violence in Australia,” Hardwick says.
So, why does she think Blackrock is a good piece to bring back to the stage today, 22 years after its Sydney Theatre Company premiere?
“While we may have become more aware of the culture of violence and sexism and how young males and females communicate, I’m not sure that actually anything has really changed,” Hardwick explains.
“I think that young men still live in a culture of repressed emotional paucity, if you like, and because they are generally unable to verbally reveal the way they’re feeling, often their communication is through a physicality, which often degenerates into violence. And I think that we are still at a stage where young women are being objectified as sexual creatures and they still need to work hard to be identified as valued contributors to our culture.
“So, I think the broader themes of the play are still very much current, unfortunately.”
Hardwick hopes those who attend Blackrock will go away and think about their responsibility in this story.
“I hope that what will happen is that people will reflect on their own behaviour within the community and what they are responsible for, in terms of how they relate to people. As parents, how do you relate to your child? Are you turning a blind eye? Are you investing in their behaviour?”
Asked about the most challenging aspect of bringing Blackrock to the stage, Hardwick says it’s the subject matter itself.
“It’s not an easy thing for a group of people to be in a room and to really be discussing this story and to try to embed themselves in this story,” she says.
“It’s unpleasant to see in the rehearsal room; it doesn’t leave you with a lot of good feelings, having to see that behaviour and for the actors to actually have to really embody that behaviour. It’s very challenging to get past, what we would consider, our normal social graces because we’re not dealing with people who are polite to each other. We’re dealing with people who are either contemplating, or dealing with the consequences of, a criminal act or who are, in some cases, just morally corrupt or bereft of a moral compass. They’re challenging things to actually authentically be able to play.”
Hardwick hopes teens of the age of Blackrock’s characters will come along and see the show.
“As Nick [Enright] said, the terrifying thing about the characters in this play is that you look and them and think, ‘One day, you will be a parent’,” she says.
“It’s available to anybody who wants to come along and see it, but if you’re a parent, it’s extremely poignant to come along and see this, and if you are a younger person, a teenage person, I think there are large elements of the text and the story that will actually resonate from your current life.”
BLACKROCK – SEASON DETAILS
CAST AND CREATIVES
Cast includes: Kate Vozella, Sam Delich, Lucy Heffernan, Tessa James, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Zoe Carides, Noel Hodda
Director: Kim Hardwick
Set & Costume Design: Isabel Hudson
Lighting & Vision Design: Martin Kinnane
Composition & Sound Design: Nate Edmondson
Venue: The Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
Dates: 9th to 25th March, 2017
Tickets: Adults $42 / Concession $35
Bookings: http://www.seymourcentre.com/events/event/blackrock/ or (02) 9351 7940