Theatre In Preview
A discussion with â€˜Ruben Guthrieâ€™ actresses Kathryn Marquet and Lauren Orrell leads you to believe that thereâ€™s something slightly off with modern drinking culture.
Although it premiered in Sydney back in 2008, this will be the first time â€˜Ruben Guthrieâ€™ has run in Brisbane. For the uninitiated, Lauren gives a run-down of the play. â€œItâ€™s about this young, 28- or 29-year-old man at the top of his game in the ad world. I think like a lot of young people in society, particularly these days, he has a problem with binge drinking.
Throughout the play the question is always how far does it go - is it an addiction? Is it a cultural thing? Is it a phase in life? Ultimately the impact on his life is so much so that the important things start to tear and break away, and he is left alone to deal with his problems. He goes from one extreme to the other too, from binge drinking to being ultra sober and healthy, and that in a sense is almost as destructive as the drinking in a lot of ways.â€
â€œYeah because he throws a lot away,â€ adds Kathryn. â€œAt the start of the play he loses his fiancÃ©e, and then he starts going to AA and you know, everything is falling apart in his life - his parents have split up, and he becomes crap at his job because heâ€™s not drinking.â€
It was written by award-winning actor/ writer Brendan Cowell during a year of sobriety, which came after the realisation that he was indulging in boozy habits a little too frequently.
â€œItâ€™s very funny, and very dark,â€ Kathryn explains. â€œI think there are certain autobiographical elements to it but, as with anything, writers kind of take bits from all over. Itâ€™s not exactly â€˜his storyâ€™ or anything.â€
Despite its humorous components, both actresses feel the play reflects the seriousness and reality of the binge-drinking problem that Cowell found himself struggling with. As Kathryn describes, itâ€™s an issue that affects more than just the central character.
â€œAlmost everyone in the play has been affected in some way by addiction and by drinking. The only person in the play who doesnâ€™t have an addiction is Zoya (Laurenâ€™s character), and I guess the mum as well.â€ â€œBut sheâ€™s been around it her whole life,â€ comments Lauren.
â€œYeah her father was an alcoholic, her husband is an alcoholic, and her sonâ€™s an alcoholic. She questions whether she has a type, in that she seeks out these men who have this addiction. So the play also looks at the generational affects of it as well - is alcoholism an inherited trait? Are we born with the need to consume it?â€
At the core of the play is this question of excessive drinking and where it stems from. One thing that everyone can agree on is that Australians are particularly adept at it.
â€œI think itâ€™s almost to free yourself from social constraints,â€ Lauren professes. "Itâ€™s an arena in which you can fully be yourself - warts and all - and itâ€™s socially acceptable because you either donâ€™t remember or youâ€™re drunk.â€
â€œAnd also the play explores the idea that itâ€™s sometimes peopleâ€™s only way to communicate well, it does break down borders,â€ Kathryn says. â€œFor example, Rubenâ€™s father feels that without his son drinking, they canâ€™t actually have a conversation.â€
â€œThereâ€™s that really beautiful thing too, on the topic of drinking being an inherited thing, where Ruben talks not so much about alcoholism itself being inherited but about inheriting generations of unexpressed pain and anger,â€ Lauren reflects. â€œAre you dealing with generations of things you donâ€™t understand that have somehow manifested in your being?â€
Such manifestations seem evident in the Australian way of drinking, however instead of being inherent in our culture alone Lauren believes that â€œâ€¦ itâ€™s a human thing. Thereâ€™s just different cultural ways of expressing it.â€ Even with such sweeping contemporary issues to tackle, Kathryn finds that in modern plays such as â€˜Ruben Guthrieâ€™ it is easier to communicate them to an audience.
â€œWhen youâ€™re dealing with stuff from the past or characters that are not quite from this era, youâ€™re dealing a lot more with your imagination. With contemporary stuff you can draw a lot more from the world around you, and thereâ€™s no obstacle with the audience in terms of the text. They understand the way youâ€™re speaking on stage, so thereâ€™s a lot more freedom. Plus youâ€™re not wearing a corset!â€
â€˜Ruben Guthrieâ€™ will premiere at La Boiteâ€™s Roundhouse Theatre on October 8 for a limited season. On a strict budget? Save 40% - first four shows all tickets $26.