Australian arts jobs, news, industry commentary, career advice, reviews & data


What's On

Marvellous Boy

Lynne Lancaster

PHOENIX THEATRE / ZENITH THEATRE: Premiered at the Griffin Theatre in 2005 'The Marvelous Boy' by Louis Nowra is the middle play in a trilogy that examines the idiosyncracies and struggles of the Boyce family.
Marvellous Boy
“If you don’t impose yourself on life, life will impose itself on you.” “If you control language you control the world”. Premiered at the Griffin Theatre in 2005 The Marvelous Boy by Louis Nowra is the middle play in a trilogy that examines the idiosyncracies and struggles of the Boyce family. It includes some characters from the first play (The Woman with Dog’s Eyes) but is a self contained work that can be performed in isolation. The last play is The Emperor of Sydney. It turns the spotlight on the youngest Boyce son, Luke (Paul Pavlakis) and follows him as he is initiated into the grey world of corporate deals, corruption and underworld operations by his father Malcolm’s ‘ fixer’ Ray Pollard (Matt Thomson) in a bungled attempt to ensure Malcolm’s legacy in the onrush of cancer. The ‘legacy’ is a dodgy land redevelopment proposal which is blocked by environmentalists, politicians and a vengeful ex-mistress leaking bad press to the papers. Malcolm (craggy Ross Scott, in a fine performance) doesn’t believe in an afterlife but he does believe in leaving a mark on the world so he will be remembered. That’s Malcolm’s view of immortality and a vision he will do anything to accomplish. Things slowly derail into nightmare. Luke (operatic tenor handsome Pavlakis), is shown as a good boy, trying to follow his father’s wishes, at least at first. He is ‘tutored’ by Ray (good looking icily blonde Thomson) – who is strange, psychotic and sinister. He suffers from vertigo and has an ironically fatal love of parrots and a tremendous turn of phrase especially when flying high on coke. He runs a second - rate, rather unsuccessful nightclub while taking care of other people’s ‘problems’ for hidden sums of money. Victor (Geordie Worland), Ray’s right hand man is also quite odd – beefy, he trained as a hairdresser. He is also deaf and once worked as a lip reader translating for TV. Together they make a frightening couple. Rays uncovers the secret that it is Malcolm’s former mistress Esther (Kate Pienaar) who is exacting her revenge on Malcolm for dumping her by leaking information to the press. He concocts a scam, planning for Luke to seduce her so she’ll drop the vendetta. Luke is so sure he is in control of his life and can handle this. But things go tragically awry. Esther (Pienaar) is wonderfully portrayed as strong, proud, intelligent and yet fearful of being left alone. As Wikipedia is quoted in the programme: “Some of the characters in the play have similarities to well-known people in Sydney, such as the Moran family. Esther’s plight resembles that of Juanita Nielsen in the 1970’s. Ray has suggestions of businessman Abe Saffron and his partner Jim Anderson, who did die of bird flu. In his introduction to the text, director David Berthold also compares Malcolm to property developer Frank Threeman.” Tony Joseph’s stark, simple set allows for lots of fast, cinematic scene changes. It is basically a looming, ominous grey monolithic slab that is multi-representational. (A sacrificial altar? A well-stocked bar? A couch ? Air conditioning vents at the top a building? etc) Andrew Castle’s clever direction brings out the various levels of meaning in this almost operatic tragedy – the power, the passion, the desire for revenge and the hubris. Nowra’s script, as befits one of Australia’s leading playwrights, is brilliant – while at times very foul mouthed and misogynist in part, lyrically soars and in other sections is quite funny. His powerful story telling and enthralling use of language captivate, horrify and entrance. Each character is exceptionally delineated in this tale of epic, operatic proportions. An excellently crafted, well acted production. Recommended. Marvellous Boy by Louis Nowra Phoenix Theatre Zenith Theatre, Railway and McIntosh Sts, Chatswood October 17 to 31 Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 5pm. $23/$18 Bookings: 1300-306-776 or book online
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.