The Jungle

Silo Theatre, Auckland

20/04/2006 - 20/05/2006

Production Details

By Louis Nowra
Directed by Cameron Rhodes

A one-night stand in more ways than one. Moving from the streets of King Cross to the harbour views of a penthouse apartment, connections are made between people in a revelatory randomness.

A crack-addicted street walker. A corrupt copper. A Kurt Cobain fanatic. A homo businessman. A Romanian lover. A faded rock star. A media piranha suffering from champagne whiplash. You do the maths.

People exist within an almost amoral neverland in a city where a little kindness goes a long way.

Olive                                    AIDEE WALKER
Woman                               JODIE RIMMER
Austin                         DAVID ASTON
Toni                                      AIDEE WALKER
Owen Fisher                      ERYN WILSON
Vince Sheffield                 PHIL BROWN
Mark Fisher                       DAVID ASTON
Bellboy                                ERYN WILSON
Cynthia Page                     JODIE RIMMER
Waiter                                  ERYN WILSON
Jason                                    ERYN WILSON
Manager                              DAVID ASTON
Metzger                               DAVID ASTON
Nikki                                     AIDEE WALKER
Gloria Peters                     JODIE RIMMER
Tony Peters                       PHIL BROWN
Holly                                    AIDEE WALKER
Hope                                    AIDEE WALKER
Cameron Kelly                 ERYN WILSON
Nicolae                                PHIL BROWN
Sean                                      DAVID ASTON
Gary                                      DAVID ASTON
Crystal                         AIDEE WALKER

costume design                VICTORIA INGRAM
lighting design                  DAVID EVERSFIELD
sound design
& composition                  EDMUND McWILLIAMS

project management     FRITH WALKER
stage management          MITCHELL TUREI
technical management ROBERT HUNTE

Theatre , [R18] ,

2hrs 30mins, incl. interval

Pain and damage in Nowra's Sydney

Review by Denis Edwards 09th May 2006

This play is set as far from the Australian vast red heart, a place of myth and fear, and a landscape unlike any other, as it is possible to get. It takes as the reality there is hardly anyone living out there, and none of these characters are likely to be moving there.

As Auckland has more people than the South Island, so Sydney’s population ranges up close to that of the Outback. Thus, Australia is heavily urbanised, with the ‘typical Australian’ more likely to wear his Akubra hat in the car park of a shopping mall than during a cattle roundup west of Alice Springs. Some of these Australians are unlikely to ever get as far as a suburban mall. They are the ones in Nowra’s jungle.

With the Aboriginal story still largely unexplored, at least in the films and plays reaching us, Rabbit Proof Fence being a recent and stunning exception, our neighbours must turn back to their own experience. A serious problem is sitting there. It is that urban life is well-tilled ground, and be it London, New York, Rome, Moscow or Sydney it tends to be roughly similar. Add Australia’s being among the later cabs off that particular rank, and the search for something fresh and new becomes testing. This is the challenge awaiting Nowra, that if the urban stories, comedy or noir or whatever, have been thoroughly mined by those with greater resources and more power to send them around the world ahead of you, what is he to do?

Nowra’s solution is to out-urban them. Take it right up to the opposition. Fire up the barbie until its metal-melting hot and don’t just throw another prawn on it. Throw handfuls of them. Twenty-nine of them to be exact; individual characters spread between five actors. Then get things moving as fast as he can. Explore all options, gender, social, economic and sexual. Add violence. This is Brecht meets Tarantino with Roger Corman smiling upon them.

Nowra has made this as close to reviewer-proof as it gets. Introduce the characters, bed in their relationship, give them a moment, be it rage, evil, desperation or whatever and then repeat.

It’s a Sydney where people carom and collide off each other. Only, unlike snooker or pool, to which the structure of this piece owes something, chips are taken from them as they crash into each other, and Nowra isn’t going to stint on showing us the pain and the damage.

Comedy isn’t his forte, unless it’s the darkly bittered variety, and at least one scene, the blackest of the comedy, veers rather closer than is entirely comfortable to a nineteen eighties classic movie. Otherwise, settle in, because as the lady once said, its going to be a bumpy ride.

The play covers twenty-four hours in Sydney. Given some of the pop culture references it is set a few years ago. It begins in the bleak streets, goes to a luxury apartment, into a hospital and then the arrival of a rock diva. It’s the rock diva, a brute of a part shouldered by Jodie Rimmer that is as close to a core as Nowra goes. Rimmer sets sail on an oxygen-consuming, sometimes literally, turn as the angry, manipulative, survive-at-all costs, dipsomaniac and generally addicted rock diva arriving back in Australia for a comeback tour and with a decades-ago suicide attempt on her CV. If that sounds like Marianne Faithfull then so be it. However, it could just as easily be Garland, Piaf, Joplin or any one of a dozen others.

Director Cameron Rhodes has few options with the Silo space, and given the number of scenes and characters he has to keep it spare and does, rolling things along with some slick set changes. There is sharp and imaginative lighting and sound work here.

The cast, Rimmer, David Aston, Phil Brown, Eryn Wilson and Aidee Walker all work their roles, with each having special moments. Walker delivers two quite different hookers, one obsessional and one scheming. Aston’s tormented father and an Icelandic singer (yes really) show a real range. If Eryn Wilson doesn’t know any over-wired drug dealers and panicked thieves he has provided us with a working template for one. Brown’s Nickolai is a nicely shaded spin, letting the audience work out his real agenda long before his lover spots it.

In the end though it is Rimmer who carries the heavy water, and has cause for real pride in the work she delivers here. Although, whoever saddled her with that wig deserves what the guy in the chair got.

It’s advertised as restricted to over-18’s, and there is a considerable amount of material pitched at the ‘lets shock Mumma’ audience. The speech from the son in the wheelchair to his father is staunch stuff, as are some of the diva’s recollections, and then there is that guy in the chair.

If there is a weakness in this script it is Nowra straining a little too far for an object-as-metaphor, and settling on one, which while it does move from character to character and is often referred too, might not be the strongest choice, given that on any one day thousands of people will be wandering around with or in one.

Oh, and this has been referred to elsewhere on this site. The Jungle is ‘written by’ Louis Nowra. That’s how writers are recognised. Texts are something actors refer to as in ‘realising the text’. Trust us here. It’s ‘written by’ or at a pinch ‘by’. It is not, as the poster tells us ‘Text Louis Nowra’.  These things do matter.


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A one night stand in more ways than one

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 27th Apr 2006

Buckle up folks; the ride through The Jungle begins as the seediest of Sydney’s seedy under-belly wakes up on the wrong side of bed in a mood to kill.

Louis Nowra’s romp from the streets of King’s Cross to the telling harbour views of a penthouse apartment is fast and furious from start to finish. In less confident and capable hands, The Jungle runs the risk of overwhelming the audience, as each of the 29 character’s sensational stories competes with the next for the limelight.

However, Director Cameron Rhodes has in all in hand, and as the 16 random stories begin to weave together, revealing their subtle connection, I was left satisfied and full. Exhausted, but full.

Actors David Aston, Phil Brown, Jodie Rimmer, Aidee Walker and Eryn Wilson would have to be the hardest working cast in town. Each has stand out moments, in a fully committed ensemble effort, perfectly pitched throughout the night.

Jodie Rimmer is sensational as has-been singer, Cynthia Page, on the slippery, needle-infested road to career recovery. Jodie provides one of the few moments of stillness in The Jungle, as the normally wild Cynthia recounts the loss of a lover. The moment is gold.

Another less frantic scene is superbly played out by David Aston and Phil Brown, as lovers desperately manipulating for status and certainty, in a game of cat and mouse, the façade of their doomed relationship.

Both actors bring their undeniable craft to every character they engulf, further highlights being David as a crooked cop and Phil’s Vince Sheffield, a young waiter on his big break, searching for a brighter life. Be careful what you wish for.

Eryn Wilson gives a strong and empathetic performance as Owen Fisher, a young man dying of aids, plus shows versatility and effective comic timing through his later characters.

Like-wise, Aidee Walker switches between her many roles, from bright-eyed bushy tailed ‘girl next door’, to Olive, the deranged lost soul, with ease and confidence.

Lighting by David Eversfield and set design by a capable team, are both minimal, allowing the actors to communicate in an uncluttered, effective space.

The Jungle is as brutal as it is funny, an evening of pure hedonism, and a great night out. Go.


Norelle Scott April 28th, 2006

Kia ora John, I have contacted the NZWG and Playmarket. Both welcomed the information and will follow up. I totally agree with your comments. My concern is that new writers may not be aware of their rights and responsibilities. there seemed to be an attitude that new writers weren't worthy of the correct credit. When I pointed out that Louis Nowra was a writer of some standing I was told that the average Silo audience of twenty six year olds would not know who he was. This seems to be a policy of encouraging ignorance - if indeed this is true. Any Silo audiences in their twenties care to comment?

John Smythe April 27th, 2006

It certainly does concern me, Norelle. I cannot believe anyone thinks playwrights only write 'text' without creating the characters, their wants desires and backstories, the dramatic action, the thematic context ... the whole caboodle. The writer is the creator. The director, actors and designers recreate - as in play - the work the playwright has wrought. The NZ Writers Guild should take this up - and alert Playmarket and the international playwrights' agents. Usually the credit wording is spelled out in contracts - and if it isn't, clearly it should be!

Norelle Scott April 27th, 2006

I received a flyer for this production as I am on the Silo mailing list. On this, as in the publicity in The Herald, there is no 'written by' credit. The credit given is 'text Louis Nowra'. Not only is this incorrect it is misleading. I am glad to see in this review the writer is credited and the fact that the work is a play by the writer, Louis Nowra is also acknowledged. When I rang the Silo I was told this was something they are doing now. Does this bother anyone else?

John Smythe April 27th, 2006

You're absolutely right Mia - well spotted - a chocolate fish for you! It's something the site did automatically and it will take a while to fix. Bear with us.

Mia Arts April 27th, 2006

Kia Ora, Just a wee question, I just recieved this review via Theatreview alerts.The review tells me that The Jungle is on at "Silo Theatre, Wellington", is this a blooper or has Silo been miraculously transported?

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