Sometimes it’s so nice to just sit in an intimate theatre to feel a show rather than just watch and hear. BIG CROW is certainly intimate. You are close to the cast, almost stepping over a dying boy as you enter. And it’s a narrow story with characters who are in a situation of their own devising.
Tommy and Albie accepted a spur of the minute trip from London to Australia. A big move for the 1930’s but any promise of the good life has been sucked out of the boys by Roy, a farmer who talked them into working for him in the middle of nowhere and has treated them very badly. They decide on revenge and attack Roy bent on killing him. Roy appears not to have treated anyone of his acquaintance well. His wife and daughter happen upon the scene and are content to watch rather than intervene.
Playwright Mark Langham has crafted a play that works well in this space. The five characters have clear motivations and history and the interactions between them are understandable and apposite. Though, I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed BIG CROW as much without the aforementioned intimacy as the wider themes of the class and poverty and morality are not satisfyingly developed in the text. But I did enjoy it because the story is definitely interesting and the production is well realised and rehearsed. Especially the men’s fighting and a very graphic noose pulling scene.
It might have been a bit breathy and shouty in the beginning but as the cast settled there were some terrific moments between Tommy ( Charles Jones) and Albert (Liam Smith). Both actors did a good job and director Barry Walsh nicely skirted around any Lennie and George resonances. There was good rapport between them and I especially liked the way they handled the very well written throwaway comic lines.
As Roy, Ben Maclaine coped well with the amount of time he is required to be a non speaking victim. He never looked passive and maintained his intransigence through the show. Jodine Muir as his wife Peg was too composed, too elevated for my engagement with her but I was quite moved by the mothering speech with her daughter Rosemary, played by Amylea Griffin. Griffin on opening night was lacking in tension and, on reflection, I think I was craving some sense of relief from both Peg and Rosemary if their circumstances were so untenable. But I did take them with me from the theatre. The production elements helped there too.
There is a very nice soundscape to this show designed by Keiran Took. I got a very strong rural/period feel from both the set and the audio. The distinct impression of the belts of shearing machinery and the dawn chorus were right on the mark.
BIG CROW is playing at the Actors Pulse at Redfern and is well worth checking out. The show continues until 4th March.