Seething, unsettling – and superb
By Scarlett Harris
This may make for a boring review of Patricia Cornelius’ Savages at fortyfive downstairs as I really couldn’t fault it. The acting, writing, lighting, sound and blocking were flawless, not to mention the grave subject matter that left the audience truly affected.
Savages centres around four late-thirty-something/early-forty-something men on the boys’ trip of a lifetime aboard a cruise. George, Runt, Rabbit and Craze discuss their failed relationships, unfulfilling jobs, fragmented childhoods and for those with kids, their struggles raising them. There’s a lot that’s implied but not outright said: Runt was beaten by his father; George is seeing Craze’s ex-wife; not to mention the ambiguous and utterly frightening ending.
Through the choreography, we see the impact that competition among mates can have: comparing scars, running races, the exhilaration of brawling. Savages explores themes of modern masculinity, fatherhood, love, sex and violence, tapping into notions of pack mentality, the phenomenon of “nice guys”, domestic and intimate partner abuse and drug-facilitated date rape.
Said intimations of date rape occur in the cruise nightclub, which is created with only the use of thumping bass and strobe lights by sound engineer Kelly Ryall and lighting technician Andy Turner, respectively, evoking the breathless, menacing machismo that the club experience can so often be.
The acting by Lyall Brooks (George), Luke Elliot (Runt), James O’Connell (Rabbit) and Mark Tregonning (Craze) was exceptional, and the juxtapositioning of the redeeming qualities of “nice guys” – loving their mothers, kids, women in general – with the misogynistic underbelly these characters possess is a truly haunting representation of modern manhood that, for some men, isn’t necessarily inaccurate.
The use of the slanted, exposed floorboards to construct the stage really conjures not only the cruise ship (not to mention the continued use of water metaphors – drowning, rebirth) but the hierarchy of mateship, with Runt on the bottom and (arguably) Craze at the helm.
One thing I did find a bit disconcerting at first was the “highly rhythmic, poetic” dialogue, and the only actor whose portrayal I couldn’t 100% connect with was O’Connell’s, but I put that down to nerves, perhaps.
At once a funny, sad, pitiful, scary and altogether realistic portrayal of modern masculinity – and the inherent “savage” misogyny that sometimes goes with it – in all its glory.
* contains some nudity and disturbing content, and employs the use of strobe lights.
Savages is on at fortyfive downstairs until 8th September Tuesday to Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm and Sundays at 5pm. Tickets $45 full, $37.50 concession.