First Published on A Younger Theatre
Based on And The Ass Saw The Angel, Nick Cave’s debut novel, Fledgling Theatre Company’s Jericho Creek provides a gothic understanding of humanity that observes our inclination toward violence and self-destruction.
Typical of Nick Cave’s better-known written work, which consists mostly of screenplays like The Proposition and Lawless, there is a pulsating melancholy that thrives in the undercurrent ofJericho Creek. A sense of danger feverishly vibrates from the offset, wanting to burst through the flimsy film of the town folk’s pretence that is keeping it contained.
Whilst deviating substantially from And The Ass Saw The Angel, Jericho Creek captures the essence of Cave’s writing style, and manages to sustain the same rich experience that Cave achieves in his writing for cinematic purposes. Jericho Creek is a bountiful play, which offers sophisticated insights into the failings of human nature, making it a great offer to a theatre audience.
From the moment the lights illuminate the dirt ridden stage, the audience can sense that all is not well. The company begin in a heap on the floor, writhing together, moving like a pulsating heart, signifying their unity. For the town’s people of Jericho, their number does not strengthen their practice, but rather gives more opportunity for foul play. Despite their seemingly genteel nature, we quickly witness the town folk taunting a mute (David North), and subjecting him to public humiliation. The cast do a fantastic job of demonstrating the fragile boundary between right and wrong.
The ills that the towns people continue to commit against one another are repugnant, however, the stylised representation of such violence prevents it from becoming gruesome. In some regard, this, along with the transportation of Cave’s story to his homeland of Australia, render the audience far removed from the grim tale before us.
The level of detail in the script is immense, and a dense world with a plethora of characters is created convincingly. Where my belief waived slightly was in the choreography of certain scenes; lifts, dives and spins that occur on the stage need polishing. It appears as though the cast is hesitant to commit fully to some of the movement, making it clunky in parts.
The musical element of Jericho Creek is nice, again suiting the inspiration for the piece, Cave, whose music has leant itself to many a film. The music works well to elevate the tense mood, apart from the questionable inclusion of a James Blake song which seemed a little out of place.
Jericho Creek is an impressive piece from Fledgling Theatre Company, which manages to take a relatively obscure novel and turn it into a thoroughly engaging and well-crafted stage play, that would suit a much larger space with ease. The cast is particularly strong and present themselves as a cohesive and capable company.
Jericho Creek is playing the Cockpit Theatre until Aug 1. For tickets and further information, see the Cockpit Theatre website. Image by Cockpit Theatre.