Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright: ADELAIDE FRINGE 2014

Phil Roberts in "Wake in Fright", Photo by Melanie Audrey
ONE can always be confident of high quality theatrical experiences at the Holden Street Theatres. Producer, Martha Lott, has a keen eye for talent from overseas and within Australia. Yabba Productions energy-charged performance of Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright is no exception. The Melbourne based company is in Adelaide for the Fringe, and under the skilful and physically adroit direction of Renee Palmer has created a powerful, sinister, chilling adaptation of Cook’s classic about teacher, John Grant, and his surreal decline into a frightening world of booze, bullying, depravity and humiliation while forced to stay in the outback town of Bundanyabbah.
“All the little devils are proud of hell” the alcoholic town doctor whispers. After losing all his money in a two-up game, Grant becomes the hapless victim of the small town’s brutal entertainment. His desperate attempts to escape the inevitable slide into degradation only propels him further into a nightmare from which there can be no release. Only the strongest may survive the lure of the two-up game, the seductive wiles of the town’s nymphomaniac and the deadly thrill of the spotlighting expedition in which the hunter becomes the hunted and the predator lies in wait to feed upon the weaker prey.
Photo by Melanie Audrey
The threatening testosteronic aggression permeates the atmosphere of a production that is forceful and engrossing. The acting is intensely confrontational and John Grant’s irrevocable slide into absolute dehumanization is heightened by the intelligently directed ensemble performance work of this disturbing production.
Bob Pavlich’s taut adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s  Wake in Fright is a terrifying insight into male brutishness and the cruelly taunting relish of the hunter in entrapping his prey. The female roles serve a transitory purpose, but allow little scope for development. Perhaps this is why Jeanette’s vocal impact seemed hesitant, in spite of her strong physicaliSation of the role. This may well have been Cook’s intention in the telling of the story, but that aside, the realism is inescapable and the production, underscored by David Wright’s ominous guitar music is an unsettling and a disturbing condemnation of the pack bestiality.
Wake in Fright is an impressive visitor to the Adelaide Fringe.   

Reviewer – Peter Wilkins

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