This is why I love live theatre

I’ve been a huge fan of live theatre for about a decade now. Nothing beats the visceral nature of quality live performances, and few companies do it better than La Boite here in Brisbane.

Last night, my good friend Heather and I went to see La Boite’s production of Ruben Guthrie (written by actor/author Brendan Cowell and featuring a Gyton Grantley, of Underbelly fame, in the title role).

We were blown away. It’s funny, confronting, poignant and – most of all – utterly mesmerising. The performances were brilliant, direction tight, and the writing sublime – tackling the tough topic of the nature of alcohol and alcoholism in Australian society.

Our reactions were interesting (at one point we actually both wanted a drink of the Zinfandel being described just metres from us on stage..).. But we also talked about how difficult it is to be the non-drinker in a social situation (which happens to me occasionally, when I  do a liver cleanse – it’s my version of hitting the re-set button) and we both had a think about when and why we consume wine. And, for me, the role alcohol has played through different phases of my life.

The play captures just how integral alcohol is to what we consider “normal” socialising. Granted, Ruben takes it to extremes (as he does his recovery), but when he finally joins a 12-step program, it’s the reactions of his friends and family that are the most fascinating – and often appalling.

Ruben Guthrie definitely has plenty of confronting material (including a lot of profanity and sexual content), and there’s a real sense of danger and menace when Ruben goes off the deep end. But it’s also very funny (and very heavy on irony) and is the most provocative piece of theatre I’ve seen this year. Shows like this are the reason I will keep going back to sit in a dark room and watch people bare their souls on stage.

(It’s also the reason I hope to return to writing plays at some stage. I’ve written three plays – two were performed by Phoenix Ensmeble in 2004 and 2005 and both were directed by the aforementioned talented Miss Heather … but more on that another time.)

Ruben Guthrie is on at La Boite until 12 November.

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