A focus on male culture through a male perspective unwittingly reinforces ingrained chauvanism.
Joshua McElroy, Danny Ball, Noel Hodda in Blackrock. Photograph by Danielle Lyonne.
In the working class surf town of Blackrock, bored youth escape a bleak existence by embracing a culture of binge-drinking, misogyny and mate-ship. Jared (Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba), a thoughtful teenager, is torn between his loyalties to his violent misogynist friends, and the influences of the women in his life. When Jared’s best friend Ricko (Sam Delich), local surf-champion-turned-drifter returns to town after an 11 month road-trip, his friends unanimously decree a party is in order. Parties in this scene are known to fit a certain formula – plenty of booze, plenty of sex, but inevitably in this culture, things get out of hand and the body of a girl is found the next day, raped, with her head bashed in with a rock.
Nick Enright’s Blackrock was inspired by the gang rape and murder of Leigh Leigh in Stockton, 1989. While Enright chooses to focus on the social dynamics of the characters as opposed to the rape and murder, this in itself reveals the male perspective that dominates our society. It’s tricky territory to navigate, where gang rape is depicted almost as obligatory in order for young men to fit in with their peers. Understandably, the purpose of this direction is to examine the chauvinist culture that creates this situation. However, empathy to that culture is critical in understanding it, and this is where the story becomes a little self-defeating, as perpetrators of violence are framed as victims of peer-pressure and somewhat absolved from their actions. Examples of this include the treatment of gang rape as something that ‘just happened’ – contrast this with the real-life rape of Leigh Leigh, whereby she was expressly invited to a party for the purposes of getting drunk and used for sex. Clearly this was a planned event, not something that ‘just happened'. Similarly, we see Jared, in a moment of rage, attempt to rape his girlfriend, despite him not displaying any violent characteristics before. Are we to believe that being a rapist is some kind of illness that randomly infects men, who then cannot be held responsible for their actions?
It is therefore no surprise that the most compelling voices come from the supporting female cast. Zoe Carides as Jared’s mother Diane, is brilliant, exuding the strength of a single mother whilst employing male stoicism to keep her illness a secret. Lucy Heffernan as Cherie is the most likeable character, a tomboy with a strong individuality. In these two characters we see how even the women in this society must appropriate masculine features just to survive, in particular, they must lack sexuality to be respected by the men around them, whilst the women who embrace their sexuality are branded as sluts.
Although some performances are a little inconsistent, the ensemble as a whole is strong, particularly Danny Ball (Davo) and Sam Delich (Ricko). Isabel Hudson (set/costume designer) and Martin Kinnane (lighting) depict the world with understated minimalism. Nate Edmondson’s score/sound design does wonders to unify the world, and although the musical pieces are a little heavy handed, they are not out of place. It is a typically slick and atmospheric production by director Kim Hardwick. It is, however, the story itself which is problematic. Although the world and the culture is very much worth seeing, one can’t escape the feeling that Blackrock has chosen the wrong character’s journey to follow.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Director: Kim Hardwick
Set & Costume Design: Isabel Hudson
Lighting & Vision Design: Martin Kinnane
Cast includes Kate Vozella, Sam Delich, Lucy Heffernan,Tessa James, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba
Thur 9 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Fri 10 Mar. 7:30pm
Sat 11 Mar. 7:30pm
Wed 15 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Thur 16 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Fri 17 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Sat 18 Mar. 2pm, 7:30pm
Tue 21 Mar. 11am
Wed 22 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Thur 23 Mar. 11am, 7:30pm
Fri 24 Mar. 7:30pm
Sat 25 Mar. 2pm, 7:30pm
Duration: 80 mins, no interval
Venue: Reginald Theatre
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level