Ever felt cooped up? The traumatised brothers at the heart of this black comedy certainly have. Abandoned as children by their single mother to fend for themselves in a chicken pen, Danny and Lyle are now adult recluses living in a tiny flat. Their only visitor is Pru, Danny’s TV journalist girlfriend who originally covered their rescue from their confinement of several weeks.
Australian writer Brendan Cowell tackles a huge array of big issues as the trio await New Year – from Australian national identity and the pecking order of modern life, to media exploitation and the grotesque cage of reality TV.
The surreal result is a cluster of occasionally great ideas lacking the room to hatch into something fully formed. Cowell’s dialogue is lyrically dextrous and brutally poetic, with shards of brilliance. But its unremitting grandstanding becomes numbing as the story unfolds.
The main selling point of Robert Shaw’s production is the cast. Lisa Dillon is great as the professionally and personally insecure Pru. She imbues an essentially two-dimensional character with humour and complexity from her virtuosic first tirade.
And Joel Samuels and William Troughton impress equally as the unstable Lyle and dominant older brother Danny, perfectly capturing their damaged interdependence. Their fowl-like traits when under stress are disturbing, rather than cringe-worthy, particularly in Samuels’s hands.
By Tom Wicker