Tenderfoot

The Damned

 Review: The Damned by Steve Barrett

 Black Swan State Theatre Company

 edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson

A scene from Black Swan's The DamnedCrickets chirp, overturned chairs, a rusted and battered shopping trolley, and a dead bird beneath the aging drive-in cinema screen. This is Rainbow, where Black Swan’s controversial new show, The Damned, written by Reg Cribb, takes place. Despite Black Swan’s repeated assertions that this play is entirely fictional, the unnerving similarity to a real life murder in Collie several years earlier, stretches their credibility, and has raised the ire of many friends and family members of the victim. Though the script treats the story with reasonable sensitivity, both Cribb and director Andrew Lewis have created a piece that will certainly expose some of the more unpleasant parts of rural teenage life to Australian audiences.

The show starts slowly, with two teenage girls Natasha (Amanda Woodhams) and Kylie (Sage Douglas) fronting up at different police stations, mischievously alluding to a shocking crime. Clever lighting design by Joseph Mercurio hides the faces of the police, who sit with their backs to the audience, while light shines directly and uncomfortably onto the two insecure teenagers. While avoiding the direct questioning of the police, they fidget, sending non-stop text messages to each other, which is shown up on the mock cinema screen that comprises the backdrop. Although at times a little clunky, the projected computer images used as a set (by Alicia Clements) works reasonably well, and injects a decidedly modern feel to the show.

Soon, we view Rainbow, an ordinary Wheatbelt town, and meet Melody (Claire Lovering), the sugary sweet newcomer, who is fascinated by the extraordinary tension and aggression that is displayed between Natasha and Kylie. With nowhere to go, Melody moves with the two girls into a dilapidated old house, sharing booze, drugs, and an attitude of self-destruction and insecurity that quickly spirals downward.

The performances from this young cast are really the highlight of this show. Sage Douglas' performance and Wade Briggs, who confidently handles a number of male characters, are both excellent, especially considering this is their debut performance with Black Swan. Together, with the lighter than air Claire Lovering and Amanda Woodhams’ terrifying depiction of Natasha, these young performers really inject a sense of honesty and authenticity into the often coarse dialogue. There were also some wonderful performances from veterans Polly Low and especially Greg McNeill, who switch between characters with a natural ease.

Ultimately though, this is a tale of a twisted love story between two young girls with amphetamine-fuelled thoughts of self-destruction that is never far from the surface. Insistently modern, with constant references to Facebook and Triple J, this play offers up a complex relationship and exposes it in unrelenting detail to the audience. Whether we accept its message or not, the image of the battered trolley, being savaged by metal poles in the middle of the deserted skating rink, for no reason at all, is hard to erase.

The Damned is showing at the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre, Perth Western Australia until the 30th October.

About Steve Barrett

Steve is completing a combined Science/Arts degree at The University of Western Australia and is part of Trove's student-editorial team.