Writers: Jack Charles and John Romeril
Director: Rachael Maza
Musical Director: Nigel Maclean
Reviewer: Sophie Everton Ryan
Australian Theatre Company ILBIJERRI brings Jack Charles’ life to its rightful place, the stage. This seventy-five minute performance combines the past and present to showcase Charles’ life from being placed in a boys’ home for his entire youth to his illustrious career as a burglar. Never truly fitting in anywhere, one witnesses an honest navigation of Charles’ checkered past ultimately addressing, as Charles describes, his state as a free man in theory but in reality he is hostage to his history.
The show itself is a visually gratifying performance that encompasses all the senses onstage. There is a beautiful calming atmosphere as for the first few minutes Charles perches over a kiln, slowly and deliberately creating a piece of pottery. Emily Barrie’s expansive space is captivating as one’s eye is drawn to every corner throughout. The use of multimedia, projected texts and footage of Charles works successfully to engage the audience and assault their senses. Nigel Maclean’s musical direction is superb. Fantastic performances by talented musicians greatly accompany Charles’ exuberance without overpowering the show.
Charles himself is an abundance of characteristics onstage. He is charming, mischievous, spritely, (even though he is in his seventies) talented, verbose, manipulative and engaging. Bright and alluring with a dark past that hangs like a shadow throughout the show, Charles is ultimately a performer. He has a magnificent speaking voice that bodes well to his career as a storyteller. He works hard for his showmanship and to keep the audience’s attention yet it translates as effortless to watch. The show’s pace does not falter. Jack Charles V The Crown is a raw, honest and self-aware glimpse into his colourful life and his dealings with the festering guilt and shame left in his society.
This show frankly examines the determined consequences of one’s past and whether or not you embrace or reject them. The show’s ending is quite moving with Charles having addressed the audience as the judges to whom he pleas in a heartfelt speech for a chance at independence. At the beginning of the performance Charles asks do you believe in miracles? For him, in his later years in life, he now has the chance to have his childhood back. This, for Charles and now his audience, is a miracle.
Photo courtesy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Runs until October 12th.