With her production of The Boys at Old Mill Theatre, Dannielle Ashton has once again proven she is a talent to be reckoned with and is fast making a name for herself as a Director with a penchant for gritty and confronting theatre.
Arriving at the Old Mill Theatre (a charming heritage-listed building in South Perth with homely front-of-house), you can be forgiven for thinking you're in for a nice night out of amateur theatre and a lovely little story to watch.
Think again! The Boys by Gordon Graham is a controversial, confronting and intense drama that's initial inspiration was based on the horrendous murder of Anita Cobby, near Blacktown in NSW in 1986.
It's not long before the play has the audience feeling uncomfortable. You are drawn into the drama that is unfolding, but nervous to continue the journey, knowing the outcome will be far from pretty.
Brett is the older brother who was jailed over a violent squabble that arose from a traffic accident that damaged his pride and joy, his hotted up car. The play starts the day of his release from prison where his mother, brother and their girlfriends await at home ready to welcome him back.
While he's been gone we get the impression that life was easier for his family and a new calm has prevailed. But only a few minutes into Brett's return and we see the affect of the alpha‚ male as he starts to wind up both his brothers and their girlfriends.
Brett has learnt nothing from his time in prison and is full of resentment ready to inflict more physical and emotional hurt on those around him. It is not long before he has his brothers resenting their partners and feeling angry that they are under the thumb‚ and their lives are no longer their own to live as they wish.
Sadly the disgusting behaviour the males portray towards the women, fuelled on by copious alcohol consumption and pack mentality, is one that is unfortunately still recognizable in Australian society today.
You can't help but feel sorry for the women who try to support their men and see the best in them, despite their flaws. You are reminded how unfair society can be when the women are persecuted for their loyalty.
Confusingly the play leaps continually from scenes before the crime takes place, the day of Brett's release from prison, to scenes with the ladies after the crime has occurred.
This is a deliberate ploy by the writer and is necessary to create suspense and leave the audience wondering if they boys are innocent or guilty, but provides a challenge for the Director.
Ms Ashton handles the challenge well using different sets, music and moods to depict the change in time sequencing.
The actors in this production are proof that amateur theatre continues to attract great talent and despite the "amateur tag" you can expect professionalism on stage.
Convicted criminal Brett is played by Murray Jackson who has just won the 2009 ITA Dramafest Best Actor Award for Trainspotting, he also won the 2008 Southwest Dramafest Best Character Award for The Return.
Mother of the villainous boys is played by Val Riches who gives a believable performance worthy of her 40 years of experience in theatre.
Playing girlfriends of the boys, Julia Hern who has a Bachelor of Performing Arts and Krysia Wiechecki who has a Bachelor of Arts in Drama Studies both give solid performances.
My only criticism would be the set design. Although good use was made of the stage and the sets were convincingly scruffy and well suited to the story, set changes were quite slow and cumbersome. The main offender being a door-frame with old-fashioned plastic fly strips that was suspended from the roof and took a significant amount of time to set up.
Old Mill Theatre presents
by Gordon Graham
Venue: Old Mill Theatre | Mends Street, South Perth
Dates/Time: 8pm, February 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2010
Matinee: 2pm, February 7, 2010
Tickets: $20, $15 concession
Bookings: (08) 9367 8719