Boy on the edge of obliteration

Teik Kim Pok: True West Theatre, The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

Anthony Weir, Michael Cutrupi, The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

Anthony Weir, Michael Cutrupi, The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

Anthony Weir, Michael Cutrupi, The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

“He’s a little shit,” offers a 15-year-old audience member from Mount Druitt, in a succinct evaluation of the protagonist in the premiere production of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You. Writer Finegan Kruckemeyer beckons us to follow the journey of teenager Connor and his scattershot mind, joyously carried through by Michael Cutrupi with an explosive and determined energy that instantly endears him to the audience.

The first act kicks off at an unrelenting pace. Connor’s series of tantrums is cast as an overt symphony of pained interactions with a shape-shifting ensemble of cowed enablers and frustrated guardians, played by Kate Worsley, Emily Ayoub, Anthony Weir and Branden Christine with versatile buoyancy to match. In this lighter, but no less potent companion to Kruckemeyer’s Tough Beauty (RT117), director Kate Gaul’s dextrous assemblage of Connor’s outbursts invites us to the edge of his obliterating everything in his midst.

The boy’s reactions are authentic and lovingly crafted with a lyrical sprinkling of profanity. His sense of alienation and confusion viewing abstract artworks in the gallery while on a school excursion has a strange legitimacy when one considers the radicalising role of modern art in American ideological warfare.

The backyard theatre set mainly involves a wooden frame that functions as both shadow puppetry screen and partition for many an exchange, including annoying one of his mechanic Uncle Mal’s potential customers and, subsequently, landing some hard blows on his best mate. It is this that tests his parents’ patience and stretches our sympathy for him.

A bold scene sees Connor performing an extended and repetitive aria of the F-word, desperately trying to block out the sound of Stephen Fry’s voice, but also transforming the language in the ears of the young audience. Watching them squirm, settle and then hear profane language morph into poetic sound was more entertaining than concerning.

Scenes like these notably benefit from Daryl Wallis’ musical dramaturgy, lending Gaul and company a number of playful elements early in the production, for example Connor’s unseen classmate heckling in a rude bassoon baritone and his parents nagging in song. These are not merely clever devices, but point to Connor’s eventual coping strategy—to completely tune out.

Indeed, Kruckemeyer grants Connor and the audience of exasperated babysitters a well-deserved reprieve when his parents isolate him in his grandfather’s bush cabin. This Duke of Edinburgh Award challenge of sorts forces Connor to evaluate his behaviour. On the verge of delirious boredom, he crosses paths with Siena, a similarly troubled girl—played simultaneously by Ayoub, Christine and Worsley—who is more comfortable with the natural surroundings. Perhaps an apparition of dramatic convenience, this tomboy Artemis (Greek goddess, protector of young girls) both calms and links Connor to his hormonal awakening.

Directing his writing at a youth audience, Kruckemeyer has issued yet another unapologetic challenge to audiences to engage in a deeper understanding of the adolescent experience, that cuts across parental handwringing and legislative buck-passing over the perceived rise in unprovoked youth brutality on our streets.

True West Theatre, The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You, writer Finegan Kruckemeyer, producer, director Kate Gaul, composer Daryl Wallis; Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, 21-30 Nov 2013; Griffin Independent, 18 June-12 July, 2014

RealTime issue #119 Feb-March 2014 pg. 38

© Teik-Kim Pok; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

24 February 2014