Death in Bowengabbie is a wry, light-hearted and sharp piece of theatre.
From the opening lines to the last word, SA playwright Caleb Lewis’s lyrically descriptive, witty and sardonically incisive script has the audience savouring every scene, character and moment. Everything moves at a brisk pace, the single actor has plenty of presence, and there’s no shortage of dark humour. In short, it’s a brilliant play.
Boasting striking language, a charming premise, hilarious epigrams, and a reflective narrative, the production uses dark fun to explore deeply emotional issues about place, death, love and the state or rural Australia.
Bowengabbie is dying and so is its elderly population. With the closure of the local jam factory (the town’s only industry), most of the young people have moved to the city. The only reason anyone visits the town is for a funeral.
Oscar returns after his Aunt Jeannie chokes to death on a melon ball. At the funeral, he spies Abby and his feelings for her hit him like a freight train – even though he’s supposed to be heading for Dubai after he marries his fiancée, Ruth.
However, Oscar is drawn back to his childhood home to attend the funerals of his Uncle Harry and then his Aunt Maggie, who dies in her sleep with the aid by vodka and sleeping pills. Of course, he runs into Abby again and old flames are rekindled. But when his pop passes away, Oscar begins to suspect foul play. Who is responsible? What’s really going on in Bowengabbie?
Elliot Howard (Oscar et al) is a fine narrator, and is equally adept in all the parts, as he eloquently tells the tale of Oscar and the funerals that bring him back to the small town. The actor is expressive, a tad off-beat and charming, which all adds to the fine entertainment. Indeed, the delivery is as immaculate as the script and the direction.
Everything about this well-written, superbly acted and engrossing work is top-notch. Go see it.
Death in Bowengabbie is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre until May 10.
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