By Rohan Shearn
In an exploration of the male psyche, Headlock examines the role and identity of masculinity and the invisible armour that young men wear in order to survive.
Presented as part of the ASSITEJ Festival for a limited number of performances, KAGE Productions' Headlock has all the makings of a great production, physical theatre, stunning design and hard-hitting material.
Using a wrestling ring as a metaphor for a prison, this work relies heavily on physical theatre with very little dialogue for the narrative. The audience is catapulted into the lives of three brothers and provided flashbacks of happy memories of their childhood as one of them spends his first 24 hours in prison.
Whilst the content may confront some of the younger audience members this work was clearly intended for, with television shows like Oz and Prison Break, the grim reality of prison life in this performance is quite tame, retreating into clichéd portrayals.
For the most part Kate Denborough’s direction is punchy, demonstrating her skills as an adept choreographer, but unbalanced as a director, as confusion reigns within the juxtaposition of youthful flashbacks with the depravity of the isolation and terror of jail life.
The three cast members - Tim Ohl (stepping in for an injured Byron Perry), Luke Hockley and Gerard Van Dyck work hard in developing the physicality of the piece. They hurl, flip and turn their bodies within the confines of the ring, only slowing for some poignant moments, all set against a backdrop of an oversized time clock, displaying the passing 24 hours.
Bluebottle’s (Ben Cobham and Andrew Livingstone) set and lighting design were visually stunning, with all the hallmarks of a wrestling match, while Byron Scullin’s hard-hitting sound design rounded off the excellent quality production elements.
Whilst Headlock has gained critical acclaim since its original 2006 season in Melbourne, this work left myself and others around me somewhat bemused as to what all the hubris has been about.
Whilst the narrative is weak, it is the powerful physicality of the performers and the visual elements that stand out.
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide: Kage Productions, Thursday 8 May - Season Closed
Studio at Sydney Opera House 22 - 25 May