Confrontation … Travis Cardona as Ducky. Photo: Brett Boardman
Belvoir, February 8, until March 10
NAKKIAH LUI'S debut play, written as a junior resident at Belvoir while completing a law degree, pulls no punches. It throws a few, too.
After an impressionistic introduction, a newsreader informs us of the facts: arrested for driving under the influence and crashing a car into a fence, Robert Gordon, a respected member of Mount Druitt's Aboriginal community, is taken into custody, and later found dead in his cell.
An autopsy revealed severe trauma consistent with a beating. Not so, countered the police defence team, the injuries were sustained in the car accident, and no one can prove otherwise. The only witness, the dead man's son Ducky, is blind and, therefore, his statement "lacks credibility".
And so a good family with law-abiding instincts is left high, dry and furious, with no prospect of justice, no meaningful compensation, and, thanks to a gag order, no voice.
It's the latter that pushes Ducky (Travis Cardona) and his elder sister Sissy (Jada Alberts), a final year law student, towards a violent showdown. Thanks in part to its relatively swift journey from blank page to a fully-fledged stage production, there is a palpable urgency in Lui's writing. The script bears some of the hallmarks of youth (and why shouldn't it?) but there are passages of searing insight, too. Lui's characters are driven to extremes, but they remain credible throughout.
Lee Lewis's production is carefully developed and stark, played in a charcoal black space. Smoke - real smoke - is pumped into the room as the play comes to its climax, adding to the incendiary mood. The performances Lewis draws from her cast are perfectly in tune with the play, especially those of Tessa Rose, as Robert's widow Joan, and Joshua Anderson as the pragmatic young copper operating on instinct and fear.