Like the bastard child of Kath & Kim meets Wolf Creek, the exceptional Angel Gear by Sven Swenson
(co-directed by Brian Lucas & Sven Swenson) is a production about unlikeable people and their
horrible existence. Not ordinarily the kind of play that I would be attracted to, I came away from this
La Boite Indie production both awed and repulsed by Swenson (the repulsion coming from his
unnerving portrayal of Edge, the inhuman, head perpetrator of the story).
The master playwright carefully leads us into the fringes of life as we know it. Yes, we are a bunch of
privileged city-slickers watching a play about a violent, drug-fuelled community that we will never
have first-hand experience of but isn’t that one of the duties of the creative, to shine a light on
otherness? Swenson begins by amusing us with the stereotypical bogan characters we all love to
laugh at and while we enjoy the humour here, we also sense there is something sinister brewing and
there certainly is.
Enter the bold “shrew-like” Jayanne – brilliantly played by Casey Woods, Chantel (Cindy Nelson)
born into a type of slavery assigned to women of her ilk, Creed (Zachary Boulton) and Foz (Kieran
Law) and their semi-conscious struggle against their genetic disposition to violence, the tortured
Smeg (Michael Deed), unwitting Gary (Dan Stockwell), Sugar the slime (Stephen Geronimos) and
poor sub-human meth-head Spite (unforgettably played by Sam Plummer). These young people have
been raised into a perverse life of gang-banging and meth labs, an inescapable existences completely
controlled by the sadistic monster Edge, the self-professed leader of the corrupt outer-Ipswich
Englishman Gary is the bastard child of the leader. On the death of his mother he finds his way to
Australia looking for his long-lost father. It is a mistake that may cost him his life when he finds
himself trapped in the seedy underworld of his father’s creation – a place where a Customs Officer
doesn’t want to be found out.
Stereotypes or not, these characters are recognisable: relations perhaps, long-gone friends, or
legends passed on through generations. Swenson has brilliantly and faithfully captured that sad
redneck character that, jokes aside, is dangerously close to home.
The thriller genre is a rarity for the stage – perhaps because it is easier to cope with this level of
ingrained violence with the protective barrier of the plasma screen. Being in the same room is to be
in collusion with the perpetrator. The extreme violence however, rough as it is, is not prolonged and
we are rewarded with an interesting twist at the end when Kieran Law shines through. Stand-out
performances from Casey Woods and Sam Plummer however the entire cast are applauded for their
fine work and it must have been hard work to keep these dreadful characters going for almost two
hours. On that note, it’s rare that a two-hour long production can keep me awake let alone engaged
so another win for the Angel Gear team.
This production comes with warnings and so it should. You don’t want to go to this if you need to be
wary of triggers - act two is especially hard for women to watch. But if you are up for a challenge,
Angel Gear is absolutely worth your time whether just to watch this great, well-paced story
unfolding or to witness the craft of impeccable theatre making, it’s all there. Angel Gear is playing at
La Boite until November 8 with Dangerfield Park (an interconnected work from the Sundial Plays)
commencing it’s season this Tuesday, October 21 – I will be there with bells on.
Someone needs to see all the things.