Being originally from Brisbane and subsequently new to the Melbourne theatre scene, I find the independent theatre realm so exciting and invigorating. At this point where the industry is so overly saturated with new up coming talent, and the big budget shows are not really lending themselves to this surge of green grass, the independent theatre scene is really blossoming and becoming the integral part of the performing arts industry here in Australia. This point was proven to me by The Cutting Boys, which is currently playing at the La Mama Theatre in Carlton.
The show, which was initially developed with the assistance of La Mama and Monash University Student Theatre in 2010, explores the notions of right and wrong, love and hate and above all life and death. It follows the story of two best friends, Max and Yuri and the complicated journey that they have taken to end up where they are; An unlikely friendship with a school girl which turns into a somewhat odd relationship leaving them thinking that she is in love with them both, only to realize that she doesn’t see the relationship in the same way which ultimately ends in tragedy. Part darkly comedic and part psychological thriller, this show is definitely one full of twists and turns leaving the audience holding their breath in shock right up until the curtain call.
The script steals the show, and this is thanks to Daniel Lammin who has written and directed the piece. There is no evidence of fakery or performance within the script, we are seeing these things play out for the first time and we are present for all of the intimate moments of the two boys and their troubled story.
The work of the three actors within the play was nothing short of remarkable. We are introduced to the two boys, Max (Nicholas Colla) and Yuri (Nigel Langley) as we walk in to take our seats in the intimate setting of the La Mama theatre. As soon as the dialogue starts we are pulled into their world of brotherhood. Colla embodied the ‘ring leader’ impeccably, compelling us to go along with him into the past to experience his memories. He was matched with Langley whose character probably experiences the biggest evolution throughout the course of the show; Yuri is quick to highlight the mental state of the other characters, which provokes the audience to question his sanity as a result. The relationship that these actors create on that stage is one that will haunt the audience long after you leave the theatre. The stand out performance however, has to go to Ilana Charnelle Gelbart who predominantly plays the character of the schoolgirl who is brought back to life in Max and Yuri’s memories and a handful of other female roles that feature in the story. Not only does Gelbart transport the audience back to the high school courtyard, but she also manages to switch in and out of different characters without any evidence of shifting gears. There is a specific moment of the play that will remain etched into my memory of a monologue that she constantly changes from the character of the daughter, to the character of the daughter’s mother with such skill that I still get goose bumps when I think of it.
The staging and lighting of the show is simple and extremely effective and really lends itself to the story that is unfolding. The audience knows exactly when we are being taken back into a memory or being thrown back into harsh reality with such a thud that we barely have time to catch our breath.
An absolutely terrific piece of theatre that will make you feel a million different things from sympathy, sadness, tragedy and physically sick, but most of all it will leave you feeling haunted by this story for a long time to come. The Cutting Boys runs until June 8th and you can buy tickets at www.lamama.com.au