Criminology | Malthouse Theatre & Arena Theatre CompanyHazem Shammas and Bojana Novakovic. Photo - Ross Bird

This is a jarring play that considers a tale of nightmarish proportions. It is the same shocking murder plot and trial examined by Helen Garner in her acclaimed novel, Joe Cinque’s Consolation. Instead, writers Lally Katz and Tom Wright have chosen to concentrate on the ‘creative imaginings of the characters’ in Criminology, a Malthouse Theatre and Arena Theatre Company collaboration. Indeed, the interpretation is emotionally charged.

In one of her stronger performances, Bojana Novakovic brings attitude and sexual flair to the role of law student and manipulatrix, Anu Singh. Jing-Xuan Chan gives a memorable performance as doting and devoted partner in crime, Mei Tan. Joe Cinque, played by Hazem Shammas gives a fitting performance of an essentially silent role. Bojana convincingly captures the emotional liability of her character’s preoccupations with romanticising death, self-worth, bulimia, feminism and love. These themes as well as sexuality and drug use are explored by the supporting actors in a Greek chorus style with social references to the headline events of 1997 such as the death of Princess Diana and INXS' frontman, Michael Hutchence. The delivery is comical yet staggering; the social commentary clear.

While the contemporary video installation (created by Peter Brundle) adds artistic value, save for one scene which involves LSD inspired flower gazing; the video screens are distracting and the use of imagery to compliment the narrative generally unnecessary. Similarly, some of the compositions are oddly matched with the peaks of the script. In a somewhat controversial direction, the glass cubicle framed bedroom which hosts the closing scene dealing with Joe Cinque’s unimaginable fate, is elevated from the ground.

Familiarity with the details of the events will not hamper the feelings of shock and confusion engendered by this enthralling portrayal of a confronting incident. It is a successfully disturbing piece. 

Malthouse Theatre And Arena Theatre Company Present
by Lally Katz and Tom Wright

Director Rosemary Myers

Venue: Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse
Dates: 3 August – 19 August 2007
Times: Tuesdays at 6.30pm, Wednesday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Sundays at 5pm; matinees - Saturday 11 Aug 2pm, Thursday 16 Aug 1pm & Saturday 18 Aug 2pm
Tickets: $21 - $32
Bookings: 9685 5111/

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