By Travis Cotton
Directed by Alex Menglet
With Johnny Carr, Erin Dewar & Tim Potter
Set Peter Mumford
Lighting: Stelios Karagiannis
Stage Magaer: Olivia Crockford
The Rites of Evil (Sept 2-26)
John Bailey, Sunday Age M Magazine 13/09/09
Mental illness and recidivism have never been so much fun! Red Stitch’s latest treads similar ground to its This Wide Night earlier this year: a pair of mismatched ex-cons struggling to adapt to life on the outside. But where the earlier production was a heavy-handed slice of kitchen-sink realism, this new Australian work balances its more troubling themes with startling excursions into carnivaliesque non-naturalism and barbed black wit.
Xavier is a fast-talking, hyperactive parolee who latches onto the depressive and delusional Easter; their sympathetic case worker finds herself increasingly embroiled in the unsettling world their relationship creates.
Travis Cotton’s script is full of wonderfully sharp exchanges; special credit goes to director Alex Menglet for reining in the work’s excesses and adding original flourishes that prevent the work from falling too neatly into one theatrical mode.
Hilariously on-the-mark performances from Tim Potter and Erin Dewar, along with a less nuanced but more than capable contribution from Red Stitch newcomer Johnny Carr, make this a challenging, eminently watchable piece of new theatre.
The Rites of Evil (Sept 2-26)
Kate Rose, Sunday Herald Sun 20/09/09
XAVIER (Tim Potter) has walked out of prison when he meets fellow released inmate Easter (Johnny Carr) at the bus stop on his way into town.
‘Meets’ is a strong word. Xavier likes talking and hasn’t really had a chance to do much of it inside, so the quiet Easter is a perfect companion.
All Easter wants to do, however, is drink. Preferably until he passes out. And then drink some more. But Xavier doesn’t care.
He’s on the straight and narrow, with a job lined up at a burger joint owned by the father of his 12-year-old pen pal.
He has a thing for his parole officer, Bronwyn (Erin Dewar), and life’s looking good.
From the opening moments of this play it’s clear this is no realist dirge about life on the outside.
Between Travis Cotton’s rapid-fire script and director Alex Menglet’s nod to Soviet theatre, this is a dark, hilarious carnival ride of chaos.
Shifting through multinational conspiracies to symbolic Socialist aesthetics, The Rites of Evil is as much about the madness of daily life as it is about the dislocation of the main characters.
And though it covers mental illness, alienation, anger, prison, alcoholism and the failings of bureaucracy, Cotton’s play still maintains its sharp, droll sense of humour.
Potter made it clear he was one to watch with his brilliant performance in Red Stitch’s Lobby Hero.
The Rites of Evil proves he is no one-hit wonder.
He has almost cornered the market in uncomfortable social outcasts with a dose of the eccentric.
The minimalist and inventive set is put to great use and the stylised direction is deft and assured.
The Rites of Evil (Sept 2-26, 2009)
Martin Ball, The Age (07/09/09)
Red Stitch Theatre built its reputation by staging Australian premieres of the latest plays from London and New York. More recently, the company has been nurturing local writers, too, such as the premiere of The Rites of Evil by Sydney writer-actor Travis Cotton.
This taut three-hander explores the damaged mental landscape of two men who have just been released from an institution – psychiatric or correctional is never entirely clear – and the possibilities and consequences that flow from their attempts to take control of their bleak lives.
Cotton’s writing is stylish and assured. He creates focused scenes with confident dialogue that rises above the everyday, to develop effective imagery and metaphor. There is a good balance of wit and edginess, ensuring the language catches the audience’s ear. Cotton is helped by Alex Menglet’s well-timed direction, emphasising the bite in the dialogue and the unspoken tension within the characters. And there is some nice acting, too, as Tim Potter finds a role well suited to his range, and newcomer Johnny Carr makes a good debut showing depth and control in his voice and body.
Erin Dewar is somewhat enigmatic as the case worker-cum-parole officer. Her military-style uniform adds to the unsettling and indeterminate context of the characters’ situations, underscoring the disparity between outward appearance and inner identity.
A worthy addition to Red Stitch’s long list of premieres, despite some lapses into cliche.