Cons Spire | Judith Wright Centre

Con's SpireEverybody loves a good conspiracy theory. Did man really land on the moon? Did the dingo really take the baby? Did Michael Jackson really contract a skin-whitening disease??? And it seems no-one loves a conspiracy more than Errol Bray. His long Australian theatrical career has evidently led him to a place of cheerful cynicism about the state of our world. 

Con’s Spire is a simple story which erupts into a cacophony of conspiracy theories, complaining neighbours and creative condescension. Con wants to build a spire. He is opposed however by his insatiably sex-crazed neighbours Mike and Del, who are concerned only by what drastic effect a giant spire in their street will do to property values. Con’s freakish daughter Toni is adamantly opposed to both sides of the argument, and is instead more obsessed with the thought of killing someone. However while the story was the foundation for the play, it was in the performers’ vocalization and extremely long and frequent monologues that Con’s Spire peaked.

By developing such a playful story, writer/director Errol Bray ensures that he has ample room for using numerous theatrical forms in his production. While the monologues contain conspiracy theories on Australian socio-political issues, and clearly express the playwright’s opinion on such issues, they are performed in a German expressionistic style. Bray’s Dada-esque performance goes from realism to surrealism in the instant the monologues begin. These droning, violent, capricious and accusing soliloquies are always spoken with intense speed, confronting the audience and destroying any sense of a passive audience member. 

Bray’s use of vocals through song is very effective. The haunting hallucinogens when the actors stand perfectly still and stare down the audience during a cabaret a-cappella rendition of The Beatles Across the Universe, is both simple and astounding.  Evidently the German styles work well for Bray’s play.

I was concerned at times that the delivery of the text was too fast. The actors often tumble over their sentences and several lines are lost in the confusion. The frenetic energy throughout the piece is certainly dynamic but after a while it becomes expected and I craved some silence or stillness. I was impressed though that for a piece that was so grounded in vocal experimentation, you could still see genuine attempts at exploring the physical aspect that the words evoked. While these movement sequences were not exactly breathtaking, the attempt was appreciated.

Con’s Spire is an effective exploration and experimentation of concepts. It isn’t a completely seamless work, but it aspires to try something different. The conclusion of the play sees Con appease his neighbours and decide only to build a model version of his spire. Con displayed the same courage as his creator – to build the art he was passionate about even if he couldn’t achieve complete perfection. If you want to see some interesting, experimental Brisbane theatre, this is worth a look.


Switchboard Arts in association with the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts present
Con’s Spire
Written and Directed by Errol Bray

Venue: Performance Space | Judith Wright Centre
Dates/Times: Tue 27 Feb - Thu 1 Mar 7.30pm
Tickets: Full  Web $16, Phone/Door $18; Conc. Web $10, Phone/Door $12
Bookings: Monday to Friday 12 noon - 4pm. 07 3872 9000 or www.judithwrightcentre.com

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