The phenomenon known as sibling rivalry dates back to the biblical days of Cain and Abel, but in True West, being performed at the Brisbane Powerhouse until 28 August, this timeless theme gets a contemporary makeover.
Penned by Pulitzer Prize winning US playwright Sam Shepard, who drew upon his own experiences growing up on the border of the Mojave Desert where alcoholism was rife, True West is a serious, psychologically tense and yet darkly comic tale.
First performed in San Francisco almost four decades ago, it loses nothing in translation across time and ocean, for it explores the universal temptation to cast off the confining structures of civilisation and yield to the call of the wild.
Director Marcel Dorney (co-writer of La Boite's gripping The Tragedy of King Richard III) also points out that the 'psychic landscape' in which True West is set echoes Australians' own myths of wide, brown, empty spaces, and the threats and promises they hold.
Thomas Larkin (Sex with Strangers, The Wider Earth, Macbeth) is seriously smoking as desert drifter, drinker and petty criminal Lee who stirs up trouble with his clean-cut brother Austin (ably played by Julian Curtis whose previous credits include The Glass Menagerie, Wuthering Heights, Embers and Gallipoli).
The brothers' feud takes place in the kitchen of their mother's house - though the mother, played by Christen O'Leary, makes only a brief appearance towards the end of the play. The rivalry between Lee and Austin in True West gathers momentum as Lee intrudes upon Austin's screenwriting territory and gains the favour of a Hollywood producer Saul (Charles Allen) whom Austin has been professionally courting. As tensions mount, and the drinking escalates, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell exactly where Lee ends and Austin begins. It's also impossible to predict who will prove to have the most compelling story - or, as the denouement approaches, who will live to tell the tale.
Set Designer Genevieve Ganner (Awesome Ocean Party, Several Words Associated with Revenge) leads a stellar creative team, including lighting designer Jason Glenwright and sound designer Dane Alexander who, between them, have worked with every major and independent theatre company in Queensland.
Thomas Larkin plays the desert drifter Lee while Julian Curtis is his brother Austin.