A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Layer upon layer of blackness
This was my first visit to the Owl and Cat Theatre, located at 34 Swan Street, Cremorne. We found the box office with some difficulty, located as it is down an alleyway. However, this initial confusion was quickly forgotten with a warm welcome from the staff member who had the duel role of ticket seller and bar tender.
Things were a little chaotic at the Owl and Cat as it is currently undergoing renovations. Even as we were waiting for the play to commence, shelves were being installed. Wine was served in plastic cups. 'Everything will look great in a week or two', we were told.
The Boys Club is playing until Saturday 23rd April
A little after the appointed starting time, we were directed to the theatre, the entrance to which was from Swan Street. When I say 'theatre', it is actually a smallish room, with three rows of seats, one row of which is elevated. I would estimate the audience at 30-35 (which would be at or close to capacity for the venue). So 'intimate' is an accurate description.
And so to the play. Playwright and artistic director Thomas Ian Doyle has previously been quoted as saying that his vision for the Owl and Cat was 'to create a place where artists strive to push the boundaries'. In The Boys' Club, Doyle not only pushes, but crashes right through boundary after boundary, creating a work that is not for the squeamish or faint hearted.
The play comes with all sorts of warnings - 'contains nudity, simulated sex scenes, violence and adult themes'. 'Offensive language' is a given. Add drug taking, death, suicide and murder to the list. If you think you can cope with all those elements, then I urge you to go and see The Boys' Club.
Doyle explains he got his inspiration for the play from a real life situation - a company near The Owl and Cat which had a warehouse party and hired a stripper for the night. When the stripper went into the warehouse, "all you could hear standing outside was the testosterone-driven roar from the boys inside", says Doyle.
The play opens with a scene straight out of this scenario - a warehouse with a very blokey environment. The youngest employee, Asher (Brayden Lewtas), has been tasked with organising the annual party. He's been given a big budget, much of which is spent on unspecified pills. One of his colleagues is horrified to hear Asher hasn't organised a stripper, apparently a standard component of these parties.
Asher (Brayden Lewtas) has the job of arranging the warehouse party
Cut to the party scene. The pills haven't necessarily agreed with the seven men. They are no longer making rational decisions, to say the least. Add to the mix a prostitute, Candy, whom Asher has somehow been able to arrange at short notice.
Cut then to a scene in which Candy is deceased, and the men are wondering what to do. Blame and recriminations are flying, cover ups proposed, suggestions of calling emergency services quickly dismissed. The decision is for them all to go home, sleep off whatever they've consumed and work it out the next day.
Gunner (Jim Gunn), the men's boss, provides questionable leadership
It may sound like I'm giving away the plot, but all this happened in perhaps the first 10 minutes of the 70 minute play.
From there, the plot commences a downhill spiral, with each man reacting differently to what they've experienced. The cover up of Candy's death leads to the need for more cover ups. With each passing minute, the play descends further and further into blackness, leading the audience to ponder just where it will all end. It feels a bit like 'Tarantino meets Lord of the Flies'.
There are delicious twists and turns throughout. For example, what initially seems like a gratuitous, shock-value sex scene becomes pivotal to another gripping scene later in the play.
The Boys' Club been well scripted and the cast is excellent. This is no surprise when you learn that the cast had significant buy-in through the writing of the play. As Doyle explains, "I cast the actors before I started writing the piece, and then wrote new scenes each week (over the course of eleven weeks). A lot of trust was required of the actors, who invested whole-heartedly in the process, they really had no idea where the story was going to go next or what their characters would do next."
Overall, this is a brave, bold, strong play. It has a cinematic quality in that there are strong and slick scene changes - that happen in complete darkness. It's well paced and compelling to watch.
Go and see it if you're up for the challenge!
Tickets are $32 ($26 concession) and are available online or at the door (if not sold out).