Quack | Griffin Theatre CompanyLeft - Jeanette Cronin, Aimee Horne and Charlie Garber. Cover - Jeanette Cronin and Aimee Horne. Photos - Alex Vaughan

Fringed by rich, rugged red curtains and caged lightbulbs, is a coarse wooden stage. A platform squeezed into the diamond shaped stage of The Stables, fit for a travelling freak show or a medicine man. It feels like the circus has come to town, but it’s not to bring relief in the form of joy, or a few heartfelt chuckles watching the feats of magic or impressive human endeavour. There is something else afoot… a bad moon rising perhaps?

Waterman (Charlie Garber), a young doctor, bright, brave and energetic has arrived in town, offering his services to assist the town’s older doctor, Littlewood (Chris Haywood) in curing the miner’s disease, prevalent amongst the townsfolk. Littlewood having seen much illness before, insists that the town is going through a phase and the illness will pass naturally. Waterman insists that times are changing and what the town needs is his zenith water - an innovative new therapy which can cure what ails them. Before too long, we meet headstrong and earnest, aspiring author Fanny (Aimee Horne) who yearns to escape from the potential entrapment of marriage and it’s ensuing small town life, much to the chagrin of her well meaning guardian Nancy (Jeanette Cronin). Complete with some rough and tumble characters Gunner and Rodney (doubled by Cronin and Horne respectively) who are to undergo testicular surgery, there is definitely something rotten afoot, so to speak.

Ian Wilding’s play is an exquisite example of the western/zombie genre films - with a very distinct difference - the inherent theatricality of the language. At times forceful and direct and at others fluid, poetic and perambulatory, Wilding has beautifully balanced style and genre, voice and character, contemporary with historical references. It slides between coarse farce and elegantly dark gothic horror.

Chris Mead’s production is smart, fun and at times suitably gory. This is not a doomsday play, intended to make you disintegrate into existential pain - it is an entertainment - the feeling of it is like that of a troupe of vaudevillian players trapped on an aging ghost train. It rattles along, using every trick in the book to scare, surprise and disgust - explosions of pus and body parts, blood and graphic depictions of illness - you have been warned. Designers William Bobbie Stewart (Set and Costume), Bernie Tan (Lighting), David Heinrich (Sound/Composer) have done an exemplary job creating this world. And if you look beyond the profusions of bodily fluids and the sinuous strings of expletives, there is a deeper commentary on progress, a discussion of gender politics, the place of the body/physical in the disembodied world. How casually we treat our bodies, how cavalierly we put faith in science and medicine. It is a Prometheus story, wrapped up in a new dressing, examining the insatiable zombie like desire for more - sex, power, education, influence.

I think the strength of this work is to be surprising - not only in explosions or gore, but in the beautiful oration by Waterman in his speech to Fanny whereby he implores her to lead the way for women kind. No one can deny Mead’s cast are formidably impressive - the spellbinding linguistic charisma of Garber’s Waterman, the headstrong practicality and sweet’n’sultry voice of Fanny (Horne), the chirrupy cockatoo squawk of Cronin’s Nancy and the drunken apathy Haywood’s Littlewood. Brilliant.

Quack is like no other you’ll see this year - and like no other you are likely to see. This is raw, visceral spectacle, filled with song, and witty dialogue, and should you choose to examine a little closer, Wilding and Mead ask some painfully interesting questions.

Griffin Theatre Company presents
by Ian Wilding

Director Chris Mead

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross
Opening Night: 1 September, 2010
Season: 2 September – 2 October, 2010
Times: Monday - Saturday 7pm, Saturday matinee 2pm
Prices: Full $45; Seniors $36; Concession/Preview/Matinee $32; Group $36; Under 30 $26 (Mon-Thurs) - booking charges may apply
Bookings: 8002 4772 or griffintheatre.com.au

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