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Review: A toast to 10,000 Beers
10,000 Beers

THEATRE

10,000 Beers

By Alex Broun

4 stars

PICA Performance Space

REVIEW: DAVID ZAMPATTI

This play about blokes who play football has managed to make the transition from Rugby League, the code of writer Alex Broun's predilection, to Aussie Rules without a hitch, and that's just one of its achievements.

It also tells an authentic, convincing sporting story without a ball in sight. Well, not a football, at least (full-frontal nudity, adult language and themes warnings apply).

The 27 players from the Port Hedland Pirates are down in Perth for their end-of-season mad weekend. Their mission: to down 10,000 beers. You do the sums.

While you're doing them, you might also be jumping to some conclusions as to what you're about to witness. And you'd be right, but only to an extent. There is a stupendous bar crawl (it's not a bad beginner's guide to the watering holes of Perth and Freo), there is chundering, there are fights, there are the inevitable slobbering home truths.

But there are also solidly drawn personalities and nuanced relationships, and a convincing transposition of the qualities and shortcomings the Pirates display on the field to their lives.

Is skipper and club legend Doug (James Porter) really a team man in footy or life? Is Reed (Paul Grabovac) an unmoveable - or unpoachable - object? Will Toby (Joel Sammels) white-ant his captain, or even cut his lunch? Can Len (Andrew Southern) win the respect of his mates and avoid being cleaned up by passing taxis? Do you care?

Well you do, and that's in large measure because of four excellent performances by actors who look, sound and act like the blokes they're playing. Grabovac is an unusual actor, so straightforward and apparently artless he can initially be disconcerting, but so honest and courageous you learn to admire him. He's in his element as Reed, and the others, none of them regulars in Perth theatre, are just as at home in their characters.

Director Susannah Thompson keeps the pace up throughout. She has a fine ear for the broad comedy that saturates Broun's text, and the sensitivity to play, but not overplay, the deeper themes he passes over.

It's fair to say that Broun and Thompson shy away from really exploring the darker side of those themes, and of these colossally male pursuits, but that would make 10,000 Beers a different play.

It would be hard, though, to make it more satisfying, insightful and entertaining than it already is.

10,000 Beers ends on February 8.