Bryce Youngman delivers a satisfying 'nice night’s entertainment' in Caleb Lewis’s play, Death in Bowengabbie.
This one man performance revolves around the ambitous young Oscar returning to his hometown after a fifteen year absence to attend a funeral. The locals subsequently start dropping like the proverbial flies and, to the annoyance of his fiancée, Ruth, Oscar finds himself going back to Bowengabbie every other week to attend a series of eccentric send-offs. Oscar has made plans for his future, plans which don’t include a permanent return to Bowengabbie, but it seems as though the town has its own ideas. Oscar gradually finds he’s more attached to his hometown than he cares to admit; he also discovers tender feelings for the girl next door, Abbey. Stakes are raised high by the danger that Abbey, single and deeply attached to her home but with very few choices of men to partner with, might settle for local bachelor Gary, an odious jerk buying up all the deceased estates and absorbing them into his Vision Chips fast food franchise.
Much of the strength in this production lies with how vividly the characters and settings are performed by Youngman, so much so that you nearly forget there’s only one actor on stage. Direction is by Matt Edgerton, and there is a charmingly simple and effective use of props, such as vintage suitcases to represent coffins and to act as symbols of the lives so recently passed.
Death in Bowengabbie is sweetly nostalgic, the dialogue is comical while the action makes a brief nod at farce; the play is a little bit black, and allows Youngman all sorts of opportunities to show off his range with the different characters. At first Oscar comes across as the straight man in the circus when he’s in Bowengabbie but soon his tightly held city man persona begins to fray. There are one or two off words in the script (‘sheening’, for example and an inappropriate use of ‘refrain’) adding to our impression that Oscar isn’t as sophisticated as he thinks he is, so they’re probably deliberate.
All in all you can’t go wrong with Death in Bowengabbie, the pacing is balanced, and the writing humorous and highly resolved. The whole amounts to a work of theatre that doesn’t spoon-feed its audience, is performed with flair, and which includes a hugely funny twist at the end.
La Mama Theatre presents
Death in Bowengabbie
by Caleb Lewis
Director Matt Edgerton
Venue: La Mama | 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Dates: 3 – 13 Apr, 2014
Tickets: $15 – $25
Bookings: www.trybooking.com | 9347 6142
Part of the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival