Strong attempts to tackle a difficult play
By Myron My
Survivors of domestic violence and violence against women come from all walks of life. The crime does not discriminate, but what do you do when your son or your boyfriend commits a heinous violent act against another person? Do you call the police, or do you turn a blind eye? In Gordon Graham‘s highly acclaimed play, The Boys, these themes are explored through the eyes of the female figures in the perpetrators’ lives.
Linda Cookson does a magnificent job in her portrayal of Sandra, the matriarch of the family. All she wants is to have her three sons together and everything she does is done out of a mother’s love for her children. There are moments where Sandra is in scenes where she is in the background as conversations happen around her, yet you can always feel what she is thinking and trying to push the troubling thoughts away with how her facial expressions and body language is conveyed.
However, many of the difficulties I had in otherwise ascribing to the play’s dialogue came down to the rest of the casting and as a result, I felt the tension and suspense of the script was not able to be fully appreciated. Rebecca Fortuna and Heidi Lupprian (Michelle and Jackie) work powerfully in their scenes together and with Sandra, yet there was a strong lack of chemistry between each of their characters and their respective partners, Brett and Glenn. Michael Shanahan and Ben Taylor (Brett and Glenn) both showed promise but I feel that they needed to get further inside their characters to show them as complex and fully fleshed-out people rather than just a familiar stereotype. Unfortunately Malachi Grimsley and Lucy Orr as Stevie and Nola seemed to be somewhat miscast, as I found neither actor was able to convincingly portray their respective characters.
The stage design has a good level of authenticity and is quite befitting of the Sprague family. The backyard is set towards the front of stage and decorated with milk crates, an esky of beer and the ground scattered with rubbish and stray grass. A door leading towards the back of the stage takes you into the lounge room decorated with two sofas, magazines, clothing and a number of family photos and other items.
Luci Kendo‘s direction ensures that all the space available is utilised to permit the characters to explore the space and express themselves further. However, there were a few moments where conversation took place with one character “outside” and another one as they were walking from “inside” the back of the house into the “outside”, which seemed a little clumsy.
The Boys is a confronting piece of theatre on domestic violence and violence against women. While this is loosely based on true events from the 1986 murder of Anita Cobby, the play reminds us that domestic violence can affect anyone, even the central women within the Sprague family. They may be aware of their loved ones’ guilt, but these women have been – to an extent – broken down into defending the men they fell in love with, with seemingly no other option. With suitable casting and a deeper examination of the characters, I feel certain this could have proven to be a highly affecting production.
Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206
Season: Until 20 February | Wed – Sat 8pm
Tickets: $33 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: Gasworks Arts Park