Ruben Guthrie

Ruben Guthrie
By Brendan Cowell. La Boite. Roundhouse Theatre, Brisbane. 8 October – 10 November, 2011

Ruben Guthrie is a modern Icarus. Alcohol is to Ruben what the sun was to Icarus: both high flyers crashed ignominiously.

It’s hard to decide who is the star of this show: Gyton Grantley for his brilliant performance? Or Brendan Cowell for his honest, vulnerable autobiographical script?

This is not a play to ‘enjoy’; rather it is to ‘live through the experience’ with one or other of the characters. We all know them: family, acquaintances, social revellers, business colleagues.

The comedy comes from the shock of recognition and can be black at times: familiar advertising jingles and clever copywriting; gen X and Y speech patterns (yes, this play targets the younger crowd, it’s their turf); and we all recognise ourselves or friends instantly.

Gyton Grantley plays the whole gamut of emotions: abject self-loathing to euphoria. He gives us a charismatic young man to care about, to admire, to cheer for. A bravura performance.

Ruben is surrounded by six others, every one a fully-drawn character and beautifully portrayed: Caroline Kennison (Susan, his mother); John McNeill (Peter, his father, also an alcoholic); Hayden Spencer (reformed alcoholic Ray, his boss in Subliminal advertising company); Lauren Orrell (Zoya, pencil-thin Czech model and Ruben’s girlfriend); Kathryn Marquet (Virginia, his AA mentor and fiancée); and Darren Sabadina (Damian, a young gay friend with easy access to drugs). Yes, take note, there is some sexual versatility here too. This is not a morality play.

Special kudos to Director David Berthold for inspired casting and direction,

and to his creatives Renèe Mulder (design), Jason Glenwright (lighting), Guy Webster (composer and sound) and all others in subsidiary roles.

Jay McKee

Images: From Top - Darren Sabadina and Gyton Grantley; Gyton Grantley; Caroline Kennison. Photographer: Al Caeiro

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