Every year Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) produces an education show, which is presented in the intimate Lawler Theatre before going on a regional tour. These productions have often been some of my favourite produced by the company, as they can afford to take more risks in script, actor and staging choices than in main stage productions. The 2019 education performance is The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You, a 70 minute play by the Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer. Directed by Prue Clark, the story follows 16 year old Connor, who is angry with everyone and everything. After relentless outbursts from their son, Connor’s parents decide to drop him into the forest for a week, where they hope he will calm down. Instead he meets Lotte.
Harry Tseng (Connor), is known for his ability to play younger characters, with a real talent for creating someone that is actually real and not a caricature of a teenager. He easily slips between an affable and misunderstood school boy to a rage filled and totally unlikeable brat with total ease. Josh Price and Izabella Yena also flit between emotional states, but both also fill a number of other supporting roles. Price is particularly recognisable as a disappointed uncle, and Yena captures the angry teenager Connor meets in the woods.
As this is a touring production, the set must be versatile and simple. Romanie Harper’s design is exactly that, with plenty for the actors to feed off as the play transitions from one location to another. Although there was a set malfunction on the night in question, no doubt when this kink is ironed the design will be even more fitting to the production, adding in plenty of its own personality. Similarly, the sound (Ian Moorhead) and lighting (Amelia Lever-Davidson), create a wholistic world of the play, with a sleek segue from suburbia to forest and intense attention to detail.
Although this award winning play is both resonant and comedic, it very boy centric. MTC presented another one of Kruckemeyer’s plays The Boy at The Edge of Everything in 2015, the story of which also revolved around a male protagonist. Whilst the shows in the years in-between have revolved more around themes of loneliness and displacement rather than gender, there hasn’t been recent productions that tell a female or non male story. It would have been more exciting for MTC to produce something that features and explores the female experience, particularly now.
The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You is tightly written, with relatable characters and moments to anyone who has ever come into contact with a teenager. The design partners beautifully with the performances, allowing the truth in the text to ring. Although I would have loved to see something a little more challenging than what the education show has brought before, this production was nonetheless, exemplary.
Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You ran at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler from 2 — 18 May 2019.