Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theatre: Krakouer night!

Deckchair Theatre and Country Arts WA
Written by Reg Cribb from Brotherboys by Sean Gorman
Directed by Marcelle Schmitz
Featuring Jimi Bani, Sean Dow and Luke Hewitt
Margaret River Performing Arts Centre
22 October 2010

So much of WA’s best footy originates on the far-flung farms and in the small towns of the state’s regional areas, so a country tour of Krakouer!, Reg Cribb’s story of two of bush football’s brightest and most controversial stars, was always a great idea.
I caught up with the tour in Margaret River full of anticipation for a show I’d missed but had heard great things about, including in the pages of The West Australian, after its hit Perth season in 2009.
Sean Dow (l) and Jimi Bani as
Phil and Jim Krakouer
Little did I know the dose of Krakouer Magic I was in for.
That’s partly because the play deserves the positive reaction it got in the big smoke. Jim (Jimi Bani) and Phil (Sean Dow) Krakouer’s story, with its great highs and terrible lows, makes a gripping narrative, and Cribb and director Marcelle Schmitz bring all their experience to bear to keep it lively, funny and, when the times come, truly moving.
The portrayal of the end of the brothers’ fabulous on-field partnership, the transfers to other clubs, the injuries and frustration and then, as the career-ending coup-de-grace is delivered to Jimmy by St Kilda coach Ken Sheldon (Luke Hewitt), is precisely accurate and gut-wrenching.
For young talented men, that moment is a kind of death, and when it comes either side of only 30, especially unbearable. It takes a particular strength to deal with it. One of the play’s driving forces is that reserved, quiet Phil was the brother who had that strength, while pugnacious, defiant Jim was the one whose world fell apart after football.
Bani, Dow and the hilarious Hewitt were in especially good form. It’s a strength of Bani and Dow’s performances that neither resemble Jim and Phil – it demonstrates their skill at bringing out the personalities of their characters rather than just impersonating them.
It’s little wonder, though, that the cast approached their roles with special commitment this night: the brothers themselves were in the audience, along with Jim’s son Andrew. Andrew is winning his own place in the Krakouer legend (and Cribb has recently included him in a postscript to the play after his Sandover and grand final-winning 2010 heroics).
The Krakouers came on stage after the play and spoke frankly and movingly for over 30 minutes and then mingled easily with the audience in the foyer until it was way past time to go.
I could say more about the pride in family and their Aboriginality that Krakouers and the play about them so vividly reveal, or the truth that redemption for the worst of behaviour is the best we can aspire to, better by far than flags and medals.
But for this football tragic, who will never forget two small bolts of lightning carving up Claremont Oval and then taking on and bewildering the giants of the VFL through the 80s, there really is only one word about this night that needs to be said. 

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian 27.10.10 read here        

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