What would you do if Armageddon were only two weeks away? Rageboy begs this very question through the eyes of shy teenager Toby Milk, in a beautifully evinced performance by actor Aaron Orzech. As the young disability stricken and ever philosophical Toby soon discovers for himself - hell has no fire and fury like a Jehovah’s witness’s scorn.
Through convincing performances, “home video” flashbacks, minimal art direction and an occasionally unnerving soundscape Rageboy collects the memories and events of a young man on the brink of adulthood amidst an ever- brooding grey storm of family dysfunction.
At age nine, Toby received a leg brace for his birthday from his aggro ex-rocker father, Daddy Rice (Marc Testart). At age 17 he is befriended by two young Jehovah’s witness spruikers. He develops a crush on one of the fanatics, the cheeky yet puritanical Mona Talent (Julia Harari). Toby’s best male friend the high camp, uber-effete Ashley (Andrew Finegan) develops a crush on Mona’s twin brother Michael Talent (Reuben Brown). Michael gets a hard on when his sister suggests he kiss Ashley. Toby’s best childhood female friend, the coquettish Maya (Miriam Glaser) gives his father a blowjob.
No sooner has the young Toby found God and a new circle of quirky friends, is he inexplicably abandoned. The JW twins Mona and Michael turn out to be as satanic as puritanic – they disappear mysteriously to the dark side. They leave no trace. Toby is alone again, like the quiet eye in the centre of chaos. Toby’s only true familial connection is his slightly demented, very alienated grandfather (Adam Wieczorek) whom the young man carefully, lovingly tends, shaves and feeds. Toby ponders the apocalyptic end of the world prophesied by his erstwhile mates.
Sounds bleak? It is. Rageboy presents first and foremost as a risky choice by Midsumma programmers as the Premier theatrical event for this year’s festival. Oddly enough it works. Perhaps because this is the second chance this production has had at a theatrical staging. It has been tweaked, reworked, refined since first staged by the Melbourne University Union House Theatre last year, where it attracted a groundswell of praise. There is great bittersweet humour in Rageboy. The oft-witty dark pen of author, Declan Greene has delivered us a melancholy new blood to keep an eye on.
Largely Susie Dee’s direction of this production feels heavy-handed; caught indecisively between techniques - clunky stylised evocations of Toby’s life events, recollections and remembrances and the highly accomplished, nuanced sensitive and naturalistic direction of the introspective narrator Toby Milk. Perhaps if a little more of this gentler, subtle naturalism (that worked so sublimely for actor Aaron Orzech) was directed to each of the highly idiosyncratic and talented actors in the cast, this Midsumma 2007 production of Rageboy would have been absolutely great, rather than occasionally breathtaking and highly entertaining.
Toby Milk’s heartfelt quiet rage is a journey of absurdity and episodic dysfunction; it is also infinitely believable, thanks to an enthusiastic ensemble performance. It resonates with audiences, and as the introvert, strong, feminine-yet-heterosexual Toby discovers - happiness is entirely possible regardless what people tell you; sometimes “and paradoxically” it arrives in a very different package. Audiences lapped it up this Midsumma. Recommended.
Midsumma Festival and MU Student Union Ltd
By Declan Greene
A Midsumma Festival Premier Event
Venue: The C.U.B. Malthouse | 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Dates/Times: 8pm 7-9 Feb, 3pm and 8pm Sat 10 Feb
Tickets: $20/$15 concession (+bf)
Bookings: 03 9685 5111. Booking for this event is: Recommended