The seedy and gentrified exist side by side in Woolloomooloo, and it's time we talked about it.
Wrecking by Dan Giovannoni is a local tale about local woes. Sydney is a city of two worlds, where the seedy and gentrified live side by side in many parts. Woolloomooloo, the setting of Wrecking, is home to a wealthy elite seeking proximity to the harbour as well as the homeless taking shelter at Talbot Place, a stone's throw from one of Sydney's best theatres, the Old Fitz.
This new work from Giovannoni is inspired by a true event. In 2003 a group of men dressed in long black coats attacked a number of homeless people at Talbot Place. Giovannoni has distilled this horrific moment into the story of five characters' lives leading up to the event. Wealthy couple Alana (Kimberley Hews) and Miles (Matt Hopkins) exist in parallel to the street kid duo of Lexie (Amanda McGregor) and Ned (Paul Blenheim). Bodyguard Van (Peter Maple) bridges both worlds.
Ned has an obsession with the ocean, and in between prostituting himself and passing out on the pavement, he goes swimming in the harbour. The ocean acts as a leveller in this story the wealthy may own the houses, but Ned can still go swimming. Indeed, his moments of freedom all revolve around water. A sequence in which he stands in the rain, face upturned is a moving moment from Blenheim. He dreams of sharks and leaves fish at the end of the street, much to property developer Alana's consternation.
Some of Giovannoni's characters are slightly simple; in particular, Alana is a bit of a cartoon version of a rich harpy, lacking a single redeeming feature. Miles is also the epitome of a melancholy uptight dentist. On the other hand, pregnant Lexie is a more believable character and McGregor brings her to life with full force.
Gin Savage's direction is clean and simple, leaving the actors to themselves and Owen Phillips's sparse set assists. Nate Edmondson's sound design is powerful and used sparingly to great effect.
One has only to walk along Cathedral and Bourke Streets, past the homeless of Woolloomooloo, down to the harbour full of speedboats to see that this city is a contradiction. Kudos to production company Fat Boy Dancing for bringing this to light. Even if the play makes too neat a distinction between the devious rich and the pious poor, it's a hefty story that has this bleeding-heart theatregoer looking for a worthy charity.