The Carnivores | Stories Like TheseIf the name of this play has a familiar, deja vu ring about it, it might well be due to its former incarnation, at New Theatre, as part of its New Directions season, just last month. Or perhaps you remember hearing of writer, Ian Wilding's, guernsey, in having it shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights' Award, in 2004. That it won Griffin's award, the following year. Or, that, in 2006 it was produced by Black Swan and shortlisted for the WA Premier's award.

Point being, The Carnivores' reputation throughly precedes it.

I can't imagine this production, by new, indy outfit Stories Like These, could, or will, come as any disappointment to aficionados. While somewhat uninspired, for mine, in the set, lighting and sound design departments ('though the last two, at least, reflect an appropriate sense on anxiety and edge), the onstage action is very satisfying indeed, with very robust and resilient performances, across the board; clearly, very well-directed.

I know this because, for example, I've had, as I recall, reservations about Adam McGurk's command of the boards on one or two previous occasions; yet, on this evidence, he's well-and-truly capable of developing plausible and persuasive characters, such as this portrayal, of Gramme.

Of course, this is a cast which has, at its disposal, a compelling (if, at times, nebulous) script, concerned deeply with the emptiness of consumerism; the terrifyingly thin line between consumer & consumed. This confronting involvement with the way we live easily carries the corresponding themes of love, decay and death. And, again, the emptiness that can exist in each, as well as the blurry lines which pertain: between people, estranged, familiar and familial; as well as life and its relative or absolute lack.

Nonetheless, it's no mean feat to distinguish these subjects as acutely as Luke Rogers, a talented Nepean graduate, has. Nor for actors Ben Simpson, as upwardly-mobile brother of (mentally unwell, no-hoping addict, Gramme), Thom; Rebecca Scott, as juicebar love interest, Lucy; Nelly Shipley, as both North American corporate (out-of-)control-freak, Neka and drug mole, Nill; the exceeding, deliciously finessed Johann Walraven, as softhearted standover man, Donny and unnervingly strong, but silent suit, Will.

All, in the final wash-up, excel, in selling the rapacious hunger we all harbour, for love, life and longevity; as well as the well-placed fears and paranoia pertinent & material to our struggle to exist and persist, in an increasingly uncertain world.

What, in the end, consumes us? Love? Ambition? Greed? Self-indulgence? Self-sacrifice?

The Carnivores
is a skilful depiction, dissection & investigation of the human condition and the relentless quest which defines it. As such, whatever your propensities to consumption, in consuming this play, you'll be well-satisfied and well-nourished; still an experience all too-rare in Sydney theatre.

Even diehard economic rationalists could be brought to their knees by this cut-throat, open-heart surgery on global capitalism and market forces. What with the dark clouds of climate-change, world food shortages and a financial meltdown looming, could there be a better time for this play?

Another big 'onya!' to TRS (Tamarama Rock Surfers) & ye ol' Fitz (one of Sydney's most characterful pubs) for continuing to push the boundaries of theatre and keeping on keeping on, in staging it.


Stories Like These presents
The Carnivores
by Ian Wilding

Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre | cnr Cathedral and Dowling Sts Woolloomooloo
Dates: 24 September – 18 October 2008
Times: Tues – Sat @ 8pm, Sunday @ 5pm
Tickets: $28 full / $20 concession / $34 Beer, Laksa and Show | Previews and Cheap Tuesdays $16 and $24 BLS
Bookings: 1300 GET TIX (1300 438 849) or www.rocksurfers.org

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