Reviewed by: Jonathon Davidson
Image credit: Skye Sobejko
“Pieces of Jones rained down all over the place…like it was the end times”.
$900,000. Perth FIFO workers. Californian desert. Spanish mountain bars. Mining corporations. Divorce, love, wine – and birds of prey.
A Circle Of Buzzards has quite a few things going on. The storyline and themes of the performance touch upon a number of different ideas; Australian ex-pat behaviour and culture, alcoholism, the psychological impact of FIFO work, the decay of love in a corporate world, the wider lens of Perth’s identity as a booming mining town – and through that latter motif, a disturbingly believable look at the deeper human experience of greed, and the things we do in order to protect our wealth.
Three actors make up the cast of Buzzards – Austin Castiglione, who plays Gerry, Jeremy Mitchell who plays ‘The Man’, and Ella Hetherington, whom plays The Man’s wife. The script stays within a seedy bar near a mountain range in Bèlmez, Spain. The set design behind crafting a ‘dynamic room’ is worth mentioning – a single, disembodied frame of Venetian blinds hangs suspended from the ceiling, implying the existence of a wall to frame the interior of the Spanish bar. Through the blinds, all characters at one point reference the mountain they see when peering through the window, and this lays the groundwork for a few clever moments of lighting – and one particularly goosebumps-raising finale.
“…home is where a few walls and a roof are”.
I came into Buzzards in not the best frame of mind to sit and soak in some of the local arts – my car had been clamped half an hour before my entry into PICA, and I was thinking a lot about having to pay the $150 to Parking West Enforcement, who would later send a young man who I’m fairly sure was on pills to fumble with a set of keys for a while. But by that point, I no longer cared: I myself was running on a high, which I received from the closing scene of Buzzards. And, by the end of the story, one cannot help but think of their relationship to money as something maybe not to stress over.
I don’t know if I’m right in saying that the first half of Buzzards is lacking at some points – beats hang in the air for a moment past their welcome and it seemed there was a sort of intangible gel that characters Gerry and ‘The Man’ fought to get through during the exposition of the performance. However, this was the first night of the show, and having some knowledge of the art-form I understand that punchiness and on-stage flow often improves three-fold by the final night of the show.
But that’s besides the point, because there’s a definite turning point where shit suddenly gets real that definitely sucked me in out of nowhere, and quite literally had me moving forward on my seat – it involves live crucifixion.
The “gel” I referred to earlier had definitely dissolved away by the performance’s halfway point. And, holy shit you guys – Ella fucking Hetherington. This young woman (a freelance actor) has some serious talent, and where actors Austin and Jeremy created the world for the story to evolve within, it is Ella who brings the show to the passing line, delivering one absolutely gorgeous closing monologue that, if you pay attention, is talking about something very close to home.
“..he was born with his heart outside his chest…”.
I’m not going to give plot specifics away, but I will tell you that through one lens, A Circle Of Buzzards is a play all about Perth – to the point where Gerry descends from our great isolated capital and there are brief references to the economic fortitude of the Pilbara region.
Do check this out while you can – this brainchild of Nathaniel Moncrieff and Joe Lui is something special with a few pertinent things to say to everyone in our beloved P-town.