The new production of Blackrock, a play written by Nick Enright some 20 years ago, opened at La Boite Theatre in Brisbane last night. Its opening coincided with the acquittal of four men found not guilty of the gang rape of a fifteen year old girl in the Blue Mountains; it’s clear this horrifying narrative is as relevant today as ever.
The story is a party on the beach, drugs, booze and surf. But by morning, a young woman lies dead on the sand, beaten and raped. Who is responsible? This incredible human drama examines the social impulse to violence within Australian culture, within young males, within us all.
In 1994 the Sydney Theatre Company commissioned Enright to write the play, which was followed by Blackrock the movie, released in 1997. The story was inspired by the brutal murder of Leigh Leigh in Stockton, a beach area of Newcastle.
Blackrock audience vox-pops La Boite Theatre opening night
As one audience member remarked “I grew up in Newcastle, the animal like treatment of woman, the violence, the sexual nature of a lot of those cultures having grown up there it’s sadly true, on going and very real.”
One young woman remarked, “It’s a heavy play to deal with as a woman, but it’s still very relevant, I got very infuriated” another exclaimed “The patriarchy is alive, misogyny is alive, it’s so disgusting and grotesque!”
Enright’s writing is superb, with the main character and her family remaining anonymous which powerfully transforms her into every woman and in doing so she could have been any one of the female characters in the play and furthermore any young woman you know, your friend, sister, daughter, you.
The audience agreed that it’s a crucial work for everyone to see but particularly young men and their parents to view. One young male audience member reflected “It’s a shocking work, I was surprised about how much of that culture I was surrounded with growing up and how little I had really acknowledged that, being that age and you see it in front of you, you reflect back on what you saw happening in high school and it’s tragic it’s not far from the truth.”
Masterfully directed by Todd MacDonald who has brought the story into a contemporary setting, the multi-levelled bare wooden set designed by Anthony Spinaze often animated with projected social media content from the teens lives, beautiful nuanced by Guy Websters sound design a mix of pop culture and melancholic mood. La Boite continues to find new and relevant audiences for theatre, which has been a key objective of the company, they partnered with QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts, Final Year Acting Students to take on the iconic young roles alongside an ensemble of top Brisbane professional actors Christen O’Leary, Amy Ingram and Joss McWilliam.
For me, it’s an incredible work that is a must see for all Australians as we still grapple with the innate brutal misogyny that is Australian culture that continues to deny the too-frequent female victims justice and still fails to educate its young males from an early age about respect for woman, care and compassion. As Julian Myers the chair of the board of La boîte said “It’s the Communities responsibility. There are children and there are adults and all adults have the responsibility to look after all children.” A work like Blackrock is a powerful statement that violence against woman is never tolerated and that we still need to work hard together to make it stop.
Blackrock runs until 12th August. For more details, head HERE!
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Photo Credit: Dylan Evans