Monday, March 2, 2020


Peter Cook as Dave in "Breaking the Castle" 

Written and performed by Peter Cook
Directed by Caroline Stacey – Dramaturgy by Shelley Hicks
Production designed by Imogen Keen – Sound designed by Kimmo Vennonen
Lighting designed by Gerry Corcoran
The Street Theatre 29th February to 14th March 2020.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Dave is a struggling actor, prone to addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, women, gambling, or as he tells us in his opening monologue, the high of acting in front of an audience. Such is the pull of his addictions that he finds it difficult to maintain his career, skipping auditions, and then haranguing his agent when he doesn’t get the roles.

In his first play, “Breaking the Castle” Peter Cook has created a searing glimpse into the mind of an addict, in this case, an actor. In a stream-of-consciousness monologue, he transports his audience into the chillingly surreal world of self-pleasure, in which his character enthusiastically wallows, until two events bring about his redemption.

An accomplished actor, as well as playwright, Cook, in a tour de force performance, offers an unflinching portrayal of his character, authenticated by his own life experience. Often addressing the audience directly, his language is confronting and appropriately coarse. His descriptive writing is impressive, particularly during the sequence in which he describes the sensations experienced when using the drug ice.

Throughout, he deftly changes voice to indicate various characters, although often there is not sufficient differentiation between the voices to recognise which character is speaking. This was particularly noticeable in the rehab sequence in which each of the patients appear to come from a different country. Norway, Germany, America and India, he tells us, but none speak with an accent.

Peter Cook as Dave in Imogen Keen's set for "Breaking the Castle" 

 Imogen Keen’s stark sloping platform, surrounded by the detritus of Dave’s lifestyle, creates a versatile and atmospheric environment, in which, drawing on her considerable directorial skills, Caroline Stacey has  employed an imaginative lighting design by Gerry Corcoran, and a dreamlike soundscape of voices and city sounds by Kimmo Vennonen, to create a seamless,  progression through the series of locales essential to Dave’s story, including Dave’s flat, a TAB, a casting agency, a street in Kings Cross, a hospital and even a remote outback town.

“Breaking the Castle” is not only an impressive first play from Peter Cook. In providing a compelling insight into several scourges which inflict contemporary society, it never flags during its entire 90 minute duration. It also provides a compelling showcase for Cook’s not inconsiderable acting skills, and for both these reasons, deserves your attention.

Following its premiere season at The Street Theatre, “Breaking the Castle” will tour to the Hothouse Theatre in Albury Wodonga.

                                      Images by Shelley Hicks

This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.