By Anne Nelson
Directed by Paula Coops
Performed by Anna Bennetts and Adam T Perkins
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
March 12 – 15, 2014
The images are frozen in time; the planes, the burning towers, the awful collapse. Twelve years on, we still see the world through the prism of that terrible morning, that desperately empty skyline.
Anne Nelson’s The Guys was an almost immediate response to the tragedy of 9/11, debuting less than three months later, with Bill Murray as Nick, a New York Fire Department captain who lost eight men in the collapse, and Sigourney Weaver as Joan, the writer helping him compose the eulogies he must give at their memorial services.
The strength of the play is its focus; we actually hear very little about the event itself, let alone its political background or ramifications. We hear about the engine crew and the ladder crew, the way a fire station works, and, mainly, about the guys themselves.
This unselfconscious concentration on them, and their lives, makes a very small piece about a gigantic event work on an emotional and dramatic level. If it has a weakness, it’s Joan’s story, and that’s only because, despite a nicely drawn performance by Anna Bennetts, it lacks the simplicity and energy of those of Nick and his guys.
That power is magnified remarkably by the performance of Adam T Perkins as Nick. The Perth actor was living in New York in 2001, and, like many others, volunteered in the aftermath of the attack, acting as a medic and “tunnel rat”, crawling under the wreckage of the WTC in search of survivors and human remains.
To be honest, I struggle to imagine the effect taking on a role as close to the bone as this must have on a performer. What it does do is give Perkins’ Nick a moving authenticity – much aided by a particularly skillful physical and vocal representation of the man he is playing – that you don’t often see on a stage.
An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian 16.3.14