Siren Theatre Company, Griffin Independent and InPlay Arts have sought an aesthetic and emotional snapshot of puberty with The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You by Finegan Kruckemeyer. Kate Gaul directs his play which will probably find its greatest empathy with adolescents, but is well worth the effort for parents with short memories.
Production designer Jasmine Christie takes a minimalist, if eccentric approach: the small Stables Theatre stage is populated with little more than a circular shower-curtain, a few old school chairs and a bunch of homemade, hand-cut cardboard shadow ‘puppets’ that look like homework. Ash Bee’s equally eccentric, semi-anarchic choreography opens and closes the piece and Daryl Wallis’ ever-so-slightly wonky composition and sound design imbues it with character and energy.
Michael Cutrupi is Connor, an angry young man prone to getting detention and in more-or-less continuous conflict with his staid parents, played by Emily Ayoub and Anthony Weir. They are at their wit’s end and looking for ways to rehabilitate the teenage dirtbag monster (as they see him) in their midst. The straw that cracks the camel’s spine is Connor decking his stoner best friend (Timo, also played by Weir); which, given recent, well-publicised coward-punch episodes, gives pause for thought.
Connor’s parents’ send him to stay with Uncle Mal, an ex-boxer trying to contain his own anger in a twelve-step, day-by-day kind of way. Despite Mal’s more authoritative tough love parenting style Connor still runs off the rails. His parents last-ditch effort is to take him out into the woods: an especially terrifying prospect for a kid raised in the digital age They drive him out to his late grandfather’s ramshackle cottage, leaving him with a backpack containing some food, a sleeping-bag and little else.
A week in the wi-fi wilderness with a few creepy-crawlies seems to do Connor a power of good, especially when he meets Lotte, a girl who’s in the habit of self-sabotaging. Yes, if Connor was looking for trouble, he’s come to the right place. Lotte coaxes him to smash the windows of his grandparental home,honours him with his first kiss, and they honour each other with friendship.
It’s appealing and relatable, pointing to how simply and directly we might deal with disaffection in this and other age groups: through listening, understanding, supporting, and loving. Social cohesion isn’t rocket surgery. Not all the dialogue is as sharp as it might be (I found my attention wandering off, here or there) and the vernacular or assumptions about behavioural maturity may not be quite up to the minute, but Violent Outburst stands as an oblique (dare I say, impressionistic?) meditation on what it is to endure pre-adult angst; it becomes acute when observing and documenting the pain involved in emergence from childhood.
Cutrupi dominates, while Weir, Ayoub, Renee Heys and Natalia Ladyko show their versatility. Like an adolescent, Violent Outburst is imperfect, not fully-formed, but worthwhile and interesting nonetheless.