There was much anticipation in Sydney’s theatre-going community as the opening night of Griffin Theatre’s The Boys drew near and it didn’t disappoint.
Twenty years on from its debut on the same stage and Gordon Graham’s script is still fresh, relevant and terrifying. Originally based on the Anita Cobby murder, sadly it is not hard to imagine similar acts making current news headlines. This production is vivid, unrelenting and inescapable in its nature, but at the same time is compelling and completely consuming.
If anyone ever doubted that Sam Strong is Sydney’s most exciting Artistic Director then this show puts those doubts to rest. Strong’s direction is fierce and pushes the actors to the extreme. He has the confidence in the script and the cast to put them both to the test and they certainly deliver.
The cast are simply superb. Each character is so well crafted and so believable that the audience are unwittingly swept along for the ride, bracing against potential impact and at times gasping at the vile and twisted nature of what is being played out in front of them.
A true chameleon, Josh McConville as the violent and menacing Brett is almost unrecognisable from his recent lighter performances in Loot and Gross und Klein. McConville is the embodiment of pent up anger balancing on a hair-trigger ready to rage against anything or anyone who gets in his way. He is the lynch-pin and motivating force for his younger brothers Glenn (Johnny Carr) and Stevie (Anthony Gee) who are bonded together not just through blood but also “mateship” and it is this bond that leads to such a tragic and horrific “all in” violent crime. Special mention also must go to Scott Witt’s fight direction, which adds a convincing and formidable dimension to this production.
Although “the boys” are seemingly the focus of the show, it is the plight of the women in this story that emerges as the most interesting aspect. It is rare and refreshing for a play to provide such strong and varied roles for women - something that the film to a large degree misses out on. Jeanette Cronin’s Sandra is an interesting mix between a devoted and caring mother and a woman who has an insidiously manipulative streak. Cheree Cassidy as Brett’s girlfriend Michelle is the definition of misplaced loyalty. But it is the brief exchange at the end of the play between Jackie and Nola that sparks a glimmer of hope that perhaps history will not repeat itself for Nola and Stevie’s infant son - that a line has been drawn in the sand and the violence stops here. One can only hope.
Be prepared to leave feeling as though you have been through a harrowing but worthwhile experience.
Images (from top): Brett Sprague (Josh McConville) and Glenn Sprague (Johnny Carr); Sandra Sprague (Jeanette Cronin) and Brett Sprague (Josh McConville) & Glenn Sprague (Johnny Carr), Brett Sprague (Josh McConville) and Stevie Sprague (Anthony Gee) in The Boys. Photographer: Brett Boardman