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Above: Sarah Snook as Olive.

Above right: Georgina Symes as Tilly.

Below: Eliza Logan as Alison.

Images credit: Ella Condon.

POSTED: 11 JANUARY 2010

Crestfall, by Mark O'Rowe

Bareboards Productions & Griffin Independent | SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross, Sydney | Until 30 Jan

Three women, surviving a brutal existence in a nasty place: “this savage quarter, this perpetual crestfall”. This is “The Bonelands” — the grounds of an abattoir in a town where respect, morality and civility have been abandoned.

The creative team, Bareboards Productions, is building an increasingly impressive back catalogue, including the award-winning My Name Is Rachel Corrie, The Age of Consent and Bliss. Committed to the art of storytelling, the group certainly does not shy away from unhappy endings or uncomfortable pieces.

Crestfall follows a day in the lives of three women through a series of powerful monologues. Olive (Sarah Snook) is the “town bike”, a beautiful but self-destructive young woman whose partner, Jungle, must try and deal with her serial infidelity. Her conquests include the local pimp, Inchy. Alison (Eliza Logan) is the mother of a boy disabled in a terrible accident and the wife of one of Olive’s lovers. Tilly (Georgina Symes) is a desperate, drug-dependent prostitute who resents Olive’s relationship with Inchy.

The story and action builds subtly, the connection between the three becoming increasingly and devastatingly obvious as Crestfall builds to its destructive climax.

The characters could become a little stereotypical, but director Shannon Murphy has elicited fine performances that allow the focus to be drawn to the individual.

The language of Mark O’Rowe’s script is at once its greatest feature and its shortcoming. It is intense, lyrical and beautifully evocative. It is also vicious and disturbingly descriptive.

The actors (quite literally) throw themselves into their roles to maintain pace and build character, but the density of the language becomes, at times, challenging to absorb. There is little respite for actor or audience.

Sarah Snook in particular gives an excellent performance as Olive. She pouts and prowls the space, resonating sexuality while allowing her fragility to peek through the cracks. As the opening monologue, she also bears the challenge of drawing the audience into the story, and she does this with assurance and marvellous presence.

It’s unlikely you’ll leave the theatre uplifted or inspired by the inherent goodness of humanity. But you’ll be impressed by the range of creative talent out there.

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