Controversial Blackrock returns to Sydney stage


Richard Hedger. Kate Cheel, Lucy Heffernan and Tessa James in Blackrock. Photo: Richard Hedger

Sun, sand and surf – the perfect recipe for fun in Australia: add romance and surely it can’t get any better. But Nick Enright’s gripping and controversial drama Blackrock, playing at The Seymour Centre until March 25, trains its intense focus on a tragic event that shows it can get unbearably worse.

The award-winning Australian playwright who brought us Cloudstreet, The Boy From Oz and the Academy award-nominated screenplay Lorenzo’s Oil, adapted the work from his original play, A Property of the Clan, inspired by the 1989 murder of Leigh Leigh in Stockton.

Joshua McElroy, Danny Ball and Sam Delich  in Blackrock

Joshua McElroy, Danny Ball and Sam Delich in Blackrock

Blackrock was a confronting work when it premiered in 1995, and it remains so to this day. It went on to win the AWGIE Award for best play in 1996 and was later developed into a feature film.

The plot: it’s Toby Ackland’s birthday party near the surf club so the expectation is that there will be plenty of booze, drugs and good clean fun. But by morning a young girl is dead—raped by three boys and bashed with a rock.

This is a disturbingly relevant exploration of Australian youth culture, how we as a society view women and what it is to be a ‘man’.

Director Kim Hardwick said the work was inspired by the gruesome case and uses it as an inspiration to explore inflammatory ways of behavior between boys and girls.

“The play is not just about that one incident. It starts with that but progresses to consider the interaction between young men and women, and the responsibility of adults to educate and consider what roles they represent,” she said.

Blackrock director Kim Hardwick says there are valuable lessons in this controversial play

Blackrock director Kim Hardwick says there are valuable lessons in this controversial play

Hardwick, whose extensive directing experience has ranged from mainstream to musical theatre, cabaret and children’s theatre, said the play holds a mirror up to society.

“There’s nothing pretty about what we see – the behavior is ugly and totally destructive. It deals with the notion of a surf culture and the beauty of the environment but reveals that underneath this can be very rotten behavior,” she said. “It has a great cast, fantastic storytelling, is visually engaging and very thought provoking. The design all fits together to create one voice. It is not set in the period as contemporary elements have been added, and is still very relevant today.”

The work is about communication, about being heard, speaking out, finding your voice and the courage to say ‘no that is wrong and I need to say it to the world’,” Hardwick said.

And it’s highly confronting on a very personal level, even for the cast, a combination of emerging artists fresh from drama school who bring a fresh outlook and mature actors who contribute a wealth of experience.

Kate Vozella, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Sam Delich and Lucia Rose May

Kate Vozella, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Sam Delich and Lucia Rose May

“The play is confronting for everyone who works on the piece but not in a creative sense. It solidifies my desire to get this message out. We’re all aware of the responsibility to get everyone talking about this,” Hardwick said. “But we are storytellers, we don’t take it home with us. We’re bonded together in a way that’s very light, partially due to the fact we all know why we’re here and gratitude for each other’s talent. It’s an easy ensemble to work with.”

The young cast members have a particular affiliation with the work because the play is about them and their contemporaries as much as it is about the characters.

“Their concerns are rooted in their real lives as it’s speaking about the behavior of young characters in the play,” Hardwick said. “The event happened years ago but the way of relating is still relevant; it may have shifted slightly but it is still essentially the same.”

The thousands of teenagers who have seen, or will see the play, or who have studied it at school will be able to share this experience because above all it is about finding their own voices and the strength to speak out.

“They will recognize the behavior, see it and realize they can say something about it, stand up and say ‘this is not acceptable’,” Hardwick said. “Yes it is confronting but it is an aspect of their lives. Every teenager will be able to say ‘I’ve seen an aspect of this behavior and ask ‘should we let this happen?’”

But though the play is also entertaining in a thought-provoking way, “having a nap in this show is not an option” Hardwick said. “You can laugh at how unconscious people can be in their actions but when it becomes perverted you realize it’s no longer funny.”

The cast includes Kate Cheel, Sam Delich, Lucy Heffernan, Tessa James, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Zoe Carides, Noel Hodda.

Blackrock, presented by White Box Theatre, is at The Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre until March 25.

Tickets: Adults $42 / Concession $35

Bookings: Seymour Centre or (02) 9351 7940



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