I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
Blackrock is a surf club in Sydney and the title of a one-hour play, set in the nineties, by the late and celebrated Nick Enright, a taut portrayal of teenage sexual tension against a sun, surf, booze and bongs backdrop. It throws a spotlight on friendships, loyalties and accountability, as relevant today as it was two decades ago.
Director/producer Jack Cummins, a talent just a year out of Year Twelve - and his Glassroom Theatre Company ensemble of ten fellow acting class peers in their second show together - have done Mr Enright's work proud. Cummins, Ella Buckingham, Jai Pearce, Alex Whitrow, Millie Sandford, James Coates, Spencer Fullgrabe, Sachin Barclay, Miraede Bhatia-Williams, Jade Ryles and Ella McKinnon perpetuated the spirit of the Fringe in its formative years, when unknown performers driven by the Muses aspired to tread the boards of modest stages, in this case, the Arch at Holden Street Theatres, to stretch boundaries or reimagine past works that can't be denied today.
Jack performed this play in 2016, as a Year Ten student, and has realised an ambition to do it again. A spare set and utilitarian lighting threw the focus on heart-and-soul performances from a committed, focused ensemble. Based on a true story of a fourteen-year-old girl who was murdered in 1989 on Stockton Beach, NSW, the dramatic narrative centres about Jared (Cummins), who decides to merge his girlfriend's brother Toby's 18th birthday with a welcome home bash for his surfer mate Ricko's return to Blackrock. Parents are rightly concerned about an absence of adequate supervision and their fears are borne out when the party gets out of hand and leads to fifteen-tear-old Tracy Warner being raped on the beach.
It highlights the question: if you saw what your mates were doing to a drugged and drunk under-aged girl on the beach, would you say nothing or intervene then and there? And would you rat on your best mate if he confessed something even worse to you? Or would you lie to the police out of loyalty? And if you are the dad of one of the culprits, do you move heaven and earth to get your kid off? Or do you demand the truth, like the heart-broken mums caught in the crossfire of rampant teen passions and their inevitable societal consequences?
Millie Sandford, who played one of the girls so objectified in the surf culture showed a female character vilified for being a provocative sexual target for boys. The play throws into sharp relief a culture of victim-shaming, reminding the audience that girls in skimpy party gear are theoretically 'asking for it', as if this might excuse the male perpetrators from the worst excesses of their sexual crimes. However, the strength of Enright's script in the hands of Jack Cummins and his impressive ensemble combine to underscore for us that we can't excuse violent crime as being a consequence of environment and that there is a price to pay when the beast within is set free.
The opening performance on Sunday, February 17, pulsated with raw energy. The dedication to craft and message could not be faulted. Technically, a couple of minor onstage glitches were no issue for the dramatic momentum that gripped the audience from start to finish. Blackrock plays at the Arch on Holden St until February 24. 4.5 stars.