EbbFlow Theatre Co. are excited to be launching into the indie sphere later this month with their offering, Blackrock, by award winning Australian playwright, Nick Enright.
An iconic and potent Australian work, first performed in 1995 and adapted from Enright’s 1992 play, A Property of the Clan, Blackrock bravely examines a devastating act of rape and violence and its aftermath
“Blackrock zero’s in on a group of young people on the precipice of adulthood,” explains director Nicola Bowman. “It explores the entrenched patriarchal systems within small Australian communities and the devastating ways in which they manifest.”
Bowman is cognizant of the play’s contemporary significance observing that you only have to turn on the news to see its relevance in contemporary Melbourne. “In recent years there have been a starling number of attacks on women in our city that reflect that of Tracy in Blackrock,” she says. “For me, it is significant that we can relate directly to the subject matter two decades later.”
Bowman elaborates that Enright focuses not on the crime itself but the community around it. For Bowman, this perspective is what makes the show so potent as, she posits, for the vast majority of us, we are the people on the edges of the crime. “The people who live just down the road, who went to the same school as the victim, who saw the report on the TV,” she adds. “We are the ones who are left and it is up to us to decide what happens next.”
The play was first performed in the year that Bowman was born. Her position is that it is chilling that 24 years later she can still see unequivocal links to the world she is living in now. For Bowman, directing this show was vital because she wanted to know why this violence towards young women is still occurring and how she can hold herself accountable.
Bowman admits that she was absolutely a fan of Enright before becoming involved with this project with her passion for staging Australian works clear. “Living in such a globalised world I think it is important to revive plays that portray the Australian experience with such truth and authenticity,” she says.
“Seeing yourself represented on the stage is always extremely powerful so I think we can never stage enough Australian work. I find it extremely heartening that Australian pieces like Muriels Wedding the Musical and The Secret River are garnering such commercial success and I hope this trend continues.”
Also a fan of Enright’s skill as a playwright, Bowman admits that his portrayal of the young women in this show was also a huge draw card to his work. “They are bold, courageous and speak with a wisdom beyond their years” she says describing Cherie, Tiffany, Rachel and others. “His words fly off of the page. All they require is a beautiful actor and you are given the whole world. The design and staging choices are just the cherry on top.”
A graduate of Music Theatre from the Victorian College of the Arts, and having recently returned from London where she studied a Diploma of Classical Acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Bowman is drawn to stories with a loud, beating heart at their centre.
With Bowman admitting that genre is less important to her, it is clear why Blackrock is the play marking Bowman’s directorial debut. “I look for characters that grab me and force me to think about the world around me,” she says.
EbbFlow was created by Dean Robinson (graduate of Showfit) and Kate Schmidli (WAPA graduate) who, explains Bowman, want to help emerging artists get a leg up, and tell truthful Aussie stories. As the name reflects, their view is that the theatre is very much like water – always changing and shifting and never still – with their mission statement one of aiming to create theatre that is alive and moving. Bowman explains that the pair also care a lot about diversity in teams and casts, be it gender, race or sexuality. “This being their first production they wanted to do something that said something about the world we’re in, and could in some way help people,” says Bowman. “I am in awe of their patience and bravery in staging this piece at this time in our local history.”
Bowman’s inclusion into the production team was based on EbbFlow’s focus for this story to be guided by someone who identifies with the female experience. “That’s where I came in,” says Bowman. “Our focus with Blackrock is to elevate the female voices in the show and put women firmly in control of our own narrative.”
Headed by a director who cares strongly about bringing the female voices of this story to the forefront, Blackrock explores issues of toxic masculinity, victim blaming and rape culture. It stays relevant in its telling and its themes and will engender discourse beyond its ending.
Bowman says, “I would encourage audiences to attend this show because it explores an event in our history that recurs in our present and what we can do to stop the cycle. I believe in this play as it gives an unbiased of the people in and around the crime. It exposes the results of an upbringing steeped in gender imbalance and a society that is broken but not beyond repair.”
July 25 – August 3
Venue: St Martins Youth
28 St Martins Place, South Yarra, 3141