Death in Bowengabbie
Tamarama Rock Surfers @ The Tuxedo Cat
7:00pm, Wed 18 Mar 2009
The Rooftop Bar was absolutely buzzing prior to this show; word-of-mouth has worked wonders, and when the doors open the Tuxedo Cat is filled to the brim. People are standing in the doorway at the back; there’s much grumbling when they have to squeeze in to allow the daylight to be shut out. The hot day and closely packed bodies heat the room up to stifling; we’re sweating buckets, and beers brought in rapidly heat up to undrinkable levels, and are placed on the floor.
But mere minutes after Death in Bowengabbie starts, all physical discomfort is forgotten.
It’s a one-man play set upon a stage sparsely sprinkled with suitcases; as Andrew Brackman tells the story, he’s constantly re-arranging the suitcases into assisting structures with all the finickiness of an OCD Lego-phile. But while his presentation is curious and (hence) engaging, it’s the story that’s the real winner here.
Caleb Lewis has penned a wonderful tale that evokes memories of small-town Australia; whilst Bowengabbie itself seems to be fictional, there was much in the periphery of the story that reminded me of my own experiences growing up in country South Australia (though I always had the feeling that Bowengabbie was in Queensland – based on Bowen, maybe?)
Bowengabbie is painted as a shrinking town, fading from reality as the young leave – and the story works around the premise that “the only thing that brings people back is a funeral.” Brackman’s character is constantly brought back to the town of his childhood by a litany of deaths, family and friends alike. Lewis paints a vivid picture of a surreal town (if anything, you could think of it as an Australian version of Twin Peaks) and its residents; the funerals run the emotional gamut, and there’s a massive twist in the tail.
Let’s be perfectly clear – Death in Bowengabbie was one of the theatrical events of the year. In fact, I’d even posit that it’d be in the Top Ten Fringe performances I’ve ever seen. Brackman is perfect – open, engaging, and earnest, spinning this yarn and evoking emotions at will. It’s an absolutely magical experience, and you can bet I’ll be seeing it again in 2010; I highly recommend you do, too.