Left – Renato Musolino, Sam Smith and Wade Briggs. Cover – Sam Smith. Photos – Bob Seary
Rust and Bone is an incredibly skilful piece of theatre. Writer, director, and actors combine to create an incredibly complex piece of theatre which manages to never seem clumsy or unwieldly. Stories overlap. Worlds collide. Threads upon threads upon threads are interwoven to create a wonderfully rich tapestry.
Rust and Bone is an exploration of masculinity: of blood, violence, impotence, and despair. Adapted by Caleb Lewis from short stories by Craig Davidson, our three lenses into this world are Ben (Wade Briggs), Eddie (Sam Smith), and James (Renato Mussolino). Ben is a young man who has lost his leg. Eddie is a boxer with a tragic past. James is part of an illegal dogfighting ring and cannot get his wife pregnant. Their disparate stories intertwine, overlapping not in plot but in theme. Although their lives are far apart, somehow, they are separated only by a hair.
This is a remarkable piece of storytelling. I think it would be counterproductive to consider it as an examination of masculinity as a whole – the focus of the show is too narrow to really justify this. While the stories of Ben, Eddie and James overlap, there is no real sense of universal application. Instead, it is a detailed and nuanced exploration of weaknesses, of failings, of vulnerabilities, and how these relate to masculinity. The three characters are very different, but they are united by their impotence, made brothers by their struggles to deal with their powerlessness.
Caleb Lewis has done a masterful job in adapting Craig Davidson's stories for the stage. It would be very easy for the overlapping threads to become a confused muddle, or for one story to completely outshine the others, but Lewis has achieved a balance that is quite remarkable. He is aided in this by a terrific ensemble of actors (I must particularly commend Sam Smith's heartbreaking performance as Eddie, but all three are fantastic), and particularly by the clever, crisp direction of Corey McMahon. Rust and Bone is an incredibly complicated show, but McMahon has put a piece of theatre on the stage that flows wonderfully smoothly and which never seems laboured or overwhelming at all.
In terms of form and style, Rust and Bone is one of the best constructed pieces of theatre I have seen for a long time. It is powerful, moving, and visceral: cunningly written, cleverly directed, and wonderfully performed. Wholeheartedly recommended.
Griffin Independent and Stories Like These present
RUST AND BONE
by Caleb Lewis from the short stories by Craig Davidson
Directed by Corey McMahon
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross
Previews: 9 & 10 January
Dates: 12 January – 2 February, 2013
Tickets: $35 – $28
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 | www.griffintheatre.com.au