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Review - True West: Edge-of-your seat intensity

Julian Curtis and Thomas Larkin. Photo: Oliver Edwin

True West

By Sam Shepard

Directed by Marcel Dorney

Presented by Brisbane Powerhouse, Troy Armstrong Management, Thomas Larkin and Annette Box

Season: August 17-28. 2 hrs including interval. Bookings: or 07 3358 8600

If the lure of a tall, fit, shirtless dude pouring beer down his abs isn’t enough to get you to see True West, the promise of edge-of-your seat intensity will be.

First performed in 1980, the two-act drama with gold splashes of sharp wit by Sam Shepard bases itself around two brothers who have reconnected.

The siblings are staying in their mother’s house while she is away and are forced to face their differences.

Lee, played by Thomas Larkin, is an alcoholic petty criminal of no fixed address and has most recently been living in the desert. Austin, played by Julian Curtis, is a married screenwriter on the edge of career greatness thanks to a promise from Hollywood producer, Saul, played by Charles Allen.

After 24 hours of bickering, things take an interesting turn when Lee’s random thought for a movie grabs the attention of Saul while visiting with Austin.

It’s a slow build-up in the first act where we learn about Lee’s dominance and Austin’s insecurities. The actors’ dynamic on stage is mesmerising but only a taste of what is to come in act two. From heartfelt moments, slight jabs and tense exchanges, the audience is thrown into a full-throttle wave of emotion and physicality.

Curtis and Larkin work just as hard on their words as they do their movements, with Curtis successfully playing a drunk we’ve all been amused by at 3am on a Sunday morning, and Lee, a raging bull not even waiting for a red flag to unleash. Lee’s edgy comedy is stunning contrast to his violent outburst.

It’s without a doubt Larkin steals the show, but not without the collaboration of Curtis who beautifully portrays a seemingly normal guy on the edge of despair. Rarely is the portrayal of a drunk as convincing as this.

When their boys’ mother, played by Christen O’Leary returns, emotions reach new heights. O’Leary has a brief but powerful role instigating an unexpected ending.

The intimate setting of their mother’s kitchen is made even more personal by the kitchen set crafted by Design Bordello.

Sound by Dane Alexander and lighting by Jason Glenwright were not memorable for their standalone impact but instead their subtle ability to accent the emotions of the brothers’ relationship.

Corduroy jackets, a landline phone and talk of suburbia remind you the show is set in 1980, but the sibling rivalry is one exactly of what you would experience today.

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