Inspired by Dead's Poet Society, Iresha Herath and Daniel Goodfellow take the lives of five Year 11 private school boys, add a new kid on the block with a secret, mix in some peer pressure, bullying, alcohol, imminent change, homosexuality, and a twisted denouement of suicide, to achieve 9Minds' return production of Angels With Dirty Faces.
'Dishonour. Anarchy. Mediocrity. This is Year 11', the five boys shout when the bell rings for first class. In the first Act, one becomes engrossed in the web of intricacy of this Chilton 'clique' as we are exposed to each boy's personalities and learn of their contribution to the group dynamic. Toby ('Gallagher') has clean cut blonde hair and blue eyes, is studious, ambitious, somewhat anxious, and is the editor of The Telegraph, the school newspaper, although his mother is disapproving. Alex ('Hewitt') has dishevelled frizzy red hair, is angry, a bully and possesses a sharp, unrelenting tongue. Johnno is tall, has brown hair, is quietly ambitious, and is sentimental when it comes to 'the boys'. Nick is the tallest, has brown hair, is appearance conscious and is incredibly insecure, but would not admit it. Aran ('Malouf') is also clean cut with longer hair, captain of the sport's team, of Lebanese nationality (hence Alex's nickname 'Terrorist') and the lady's man. And then we have Jake, who comes to Chilton from Griffin in Sydney, is also a bit nerdy, shy, introspective and who has a secret.
It becomes quickly evident that each boy has their own agenda for the school year and differs markedly in their reaction to change. Johnno and Nick provide sprinkles of humour and memorable 'one-liners' alongside which Toby's dream of becoming a journalist is shattered by his mother as he yearns to be closer to his father. On the other hand, Alex feels threatened by Jake and becomes obsessed with uncovering the circumstances of Jake's departure from Griffin, to the detriment of his other relationships, calling Jake a 'faggot' and a 'freak'. The rattle of Toby's pills from his blazer pocket resonates.
The boys are initially frustrated by the fact that the 'Chilton tradition' of travelling to Portsea for a weekend is not the same this year: new boy Jake is in attendance at Toby's behest, and Johnno's attractive older sister Steph causes a stir as chaperone. As the boys imbibe more alcohol, and the conversations become deeper and more meaningful, like a game of tennis, the secrets unfold with devastating consequences. Enter Honour, Reality and Maturity for the five remaining boys.
The play is relevant to a young audience and educational to an older one. The authenticity of the language is achieved effortlessly by the boys played by Hagan Matthews (Jake), Andre de Vanny (Toby), Ben Schmideg (Alex), Deniz Akdeniz (Aran), Nicholas O'Brien (Nick), Adam Lee (Johnno) who provide a genuine portrayal of their characters. The story is engrossing, as it is not entirely obvious which of the characters is the most vulnerable to suicide. The stage setting is minimal, but this is not disappointing as the actors take carriage of the story with particularly strong performances by central characters, Ben Schmideg (Alex) and Andre de Vanny (Toby).
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES
by Iresha Herath, Rachel Fitzpatrick, Morgan Dowsett and cast
Venue: Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 21 Feb – 25 [email protected] 8pm, Sat 24th @ 2pm, Sun 25th @ 5pm
Tickets: $23.50 to $46.50 Full
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or www.ticketmaster.com.au