Left - Jimi Bani. Jimi Bani, Luke Hewitt, Sean Dow. Photo - Jon Green.
From the moment I walked into the theatre and was assaulted by the lingering smell of Voltaren, there was no escaping the fact I was seeing a play about sport. And not just any sport, but the major code of any self-respecting West Australian: Australian Rules Football (AFL).
Originally developed by Reg Cribb in 2009 from Sean Gorman’s novel Brother Boys, Krakouer! charts the real-life rise (and decline) of Jim and Phil Krakouer, two Indigenous siblings from Mount Barker, who rose from chasing kangaroos and kicking goals through trees, to taking the 1980s AFL world by storm.
With a playing style dubbed ‘Krakouer Magic’, Jim and Phil utilised their love of the pig skin to move to Perth and join the Claremont Football Club, where they were quickly swooped upon by AFL talent scouts, transferred to North Melbourne Football Club, and the ‘big paddock’ of the MCG.
However success is equally met with trouble, and Jim and Phil saw more than their share both on and off the field, either from racism, accidents and financial woes, or through an anger-management problem that saw Jim miss a year of football through suspension alone.
Now this all sounds like the contents of any standard sports biography, but in the hands of Cribb, director Marcelle Schmitz, and the talented cast, Krakouer! is much more than that. It is a highly-energetic and spirited story that celebrates pride, passion and the strength of familial bonds.
Jimi Bani and Sean Dow displayed wonderful camaraderie as Jim and Phil, delivering dynamic, nuanced performances. Bani’s fiery physical presence worked well against Dow’s calmer boyishness, and as they bounced from scene-to-scene, their shared warmth, charisma and energy drew the audience into their story.
Tasked with playing ‘everyone else’, Luke Hewitt provided excellent support to Bani and Dow. He moved quickly between vast arrays of supporting roles with ease, almost stealing a majority of scenes with superb comedic timing and deft characterisation.
Unfortunately, the initial frenetic style of Krakouer! worked against the performers by the end of the first act; darker incidents felt rushed, moments missed and the episodic structure of the narrative started to jar. I longed for a second to catch my breath, even between laughs. After interval however, the show (and nerves) seemed to settle, and the downfall of the brothers was captured with heart and uncompromising honesty.
Alan Surgener’s and Alicia Clements’ effective simplistic set and costume design allowed emphasis to remain on the storytelling; even utilising the projection of archival video and images to support the unfolding narrative.
Combined with David Milroy’s score of acoustic football anthems, and the Voltaren, the effect was total immersion in the Krakouers’ life, their love for each other and, of course, for football. And it didn’t matter if your passion for the game didn’t match theirs; the warmth and joy of this admittedly ‘three-quarter time’ tale carries you through, leaving you with a smile on your face, and hope for their future.
Deckchair Theatre presents
by Reg Cribb | based on Brother Boys by Sean Gorman
Directed by Marcelle Schmitz
Venue: Victoria Hall | 179 High Street, Fremantle WA
Dates: Tues 5 October - Sat 11 October
Times: Tue - Sat @ 8pm
Matinee: Saturday 11th @ 2pm