Perhaps a lost classic on the Australian Literary scene, Henry Williams’ 1973 novel My Love has a Black Speed Stripe immortalises an Australian mammal that is verging on extinction. There are a few enclaves where the car-obsessed male of the species – the ‘Aussie’ - still holds out for a flanny-clad revival and as Fractal Theatre discovers, Ipswich Queensland may just be one such place. Brenna Lee-Cooney (direction and adaption) dusts off Williams’ wonderfully dark comedy with a national tour starting at Studio 188 in Ipswich before heading as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival to Parramatta, Brisbane and Frankston.
With spooky perfection, Sandro Colarelli is Ron, an assembly-line worker and a bit of a psychopath who develops a near pornographic relationship with his new Monaro. Ron also has an equally developed disdain for shelias, authority and anything foreign as demonstrated by his near meltdown when his immigrant neighbour is unable to hand him the correct spanner. When Ron reaches a fork in the road - wife or car - the decision is a no-brainer but getting rid of all that irks him is a murderous affair indeed.
While it could have easily been a successful one-man show (Colarelli recounts Ron’s story to the audience directly) Brenna Lee-Cooney has installed a trio of physical performers who skilfully embody the lusty Monaro giving Ron’s one true love an organic presence while heightening the sexuality between them.
Colarelli’s performance is both entertaining and quietly creepy. The vernacular of my childhood, so distantly familiar is reminiscent of simpler, innocent times but it grates against the simmering danger of complete obsession and imbalanced fury as Ron hatches his plot to deal his new wife Rose (Zoe DePlevitz), Neighbour Marlene (Beth Incognito) and his annoying foreman (Vanja Matula).
An impeccable sound design (Michael Bouwman) adds a subconscious echo to Ron’s unsettling spite and also creates the industrial soundscape of the factory floor and the overall production design (Nicole Macqueen) was simple and effective; A retro camping chair and a black back-drop that seemed to twinkle the constellations of suburbia thirty years ago.
While researching the novel, I came across a comment on Henry Williams’ novel,
“His missus is not pleased with the car getting more attention than she does. AND deservedly so, A new Monaro V8 with four on the floor, what more could a bloke ask for!” – commence eye rolling now.
My Love Has a Black Speed Stripe and Studio 188 were both well worth the journey to the other side. Perhaps it was serendipity as we exited the theatre a pack of revved up Holdens rumbled down the main drag of Ipswich as if Ron had followed us out of the theatre and back into reality.