Brendan Cowell’s THE SUBLIME rave review

October 27th, 2014 by jean

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THE SUBLIME played at Melbourne Theatre Company from 22 August-4 October 2014.

The show was reviewed by Peter Craven at The Saturday Paper:

“…Brendan Cowell has written a play about football and sex, and it is (in every sense of the word) a beauty. Though to put it like that is to risk every kind of confusion because The Sublime is a play about the worst things in the world, a play about rape and abuse, and ghastly, groping bewilderments of identity; about grief and mutilation and stark horror. It is a superb piece of work, the finest piece of Australian dramatic writing I’ve come across in years.

…So at one level The Sublime is a play about sport and sexual abuse, though that hardly does justice to its shimmering black magnificence of articulation.

…But this is consummate dramatic writing of extraordinary originality and formal brilliance. It has a remarkable structural elan that brings to mind works such as Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier or the way Helen Garner can condense the cumulative effect of pages of action into a paragraph. And it is all the more remarkable that Cowell can achieve this while never deviating from the idiolect and idiom of ragged shopsoiled Aussie speech, rank with every old cliché and shortcut, but delivered here like a comet of viable rhetoric.

Most of the writing is at the edge of black comedy and it encompasses a lot of piteous and horrifying subject matter, yet it never for a moment appears pious or politically correct (or, conversely, implicated in the ethos it represents). Cowell exhibits a sweeping moral courage and an ability to use grotesquerie and caricature as features of an overall tapestry that is – weird as it sounds – just a bit like Jacobean tragedy. There’s the same audacity of design in the face of subject matter that juggles potential laughter and tears and plays with the audience’s capacity for something like hysteria – which is, as it were, the logical response to this absolutely familiar nightmare world. It’s never more than an inch or two away from our conventional boundaries but with a knife-edge quality that’s all the more creepy because it’s so close to the easy horrors of 60 Minutes or the Sydney Tele or the Melbourne HeraldSun.

Part of what makes The Sublime such a good play is that Cowell understands the popular world he’s presenting so well, even as he presents its underside. This is not a play that condescends to footy or to blokes from working or country backgrounds, or suburban girls who think you can run or suck your way to stardom.”