FORTYFIVEDOWNSTAIRS: There’s something quite raw about Brendan Cowell’s debut play Men, now playing at fortyfivedownstairs.
There’s something quite raw about Brendan Cowell’s debut play Men, now playing at fortyfivedownstairs. After a brief season in 2009, Straightjacket Productions bring this remarkable piece of theatre to the eyes and ears of Melbournians. Themes of mateship and undeclared brotherhood are explored through Cowell’s (Ten Empty, Love my Way) clever and articulate writing. As the men of the show are introduced (Guy - the sensitive, romantic who has turned to artificial escapism to ease the pain; Jules - the egomaniac whose insecurities sit a little too close to the surface; Bob - the ‘lost little boy' type soul disguised as an anger fuelled jock) the scene is set for a narrative-driven journey. All we know is that these men are on a countdown to something big. Something that will ‘make them’. It will be their moment to shine. A persistent female voiceover counting down to the moment generates a sense of urgency, ensuring that the characters' dialogue is a gripping and engaging experience. The countdown begins, and it all starts to pour out. The intimate space at fortyfivedownstairs on Flinders Lane offers the perfect environment for the story. Samuel Johnson (Straightjacket Productions) is Guy - a philosopher and thinker, who believes in love above all but, in the process has fallen into addiction and despair. Better known for his roles on Australian TV, Johnson’s defined charisma holds this clever production together. Justin Rosniak’s and Jay Bowen’s performances only compliment the stark contrast of the characters and allow the story to unfold cleverly and humorously. Georgia Bolton plays Haizel; the only woman in the show other than the evident talents of director Sarah Hallam. Bolton’s performance of a strong, perhaps manipulating character emphasises the commented contrast between men and women, leaving a clear definition of the confusion of the traditional role of the sexes. After 90 minutes of breaking these men down, all she has left is three open and raw vessels, ready to take their time to shine. Haizel’s self created and manufactured ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ for the men, concludes the broader context of the piece with a well-choreographed and very entertaining finale. Men’s emotive and raw narrative partnered with some fine Australian theatre performers results in an insightful and confronting production. The men’s stories scratch a lot deeper than the surface and leave an intense yet tasteful comment on the society of lost men. Men by Brendan Cowell, Straightjacket Productions, fortyfivedownstairs Flinders Lane Melbourne, 4-21 March Straightjacket Productions was formed in 2009 by Samuel Johnson, Sarah Hallam, Shelley Wade and Lucy Freeman. Written by Brendan Cowell Directed by Sarah Hallam

Shelley Blake

Tuesday 16 March, 2010

About the author

Shelley Blake is a reviewer for ArtsHub.