How often do we get a blokey, football focused new Australian play on stage?

Not often.

This year in Sydney we have already seen Reg Cribb’s ‘Krakouer’ at the Seymour Centre, and previous Belvoir audiences have enjoyed Alana Valentine’s ‘Run, Rabbit Run’ – but sport generally doesn’t feature much in theatre -that may be something to do with the invisible divide between art and sport due to perceived lowbrow/highbrow prejudices. Or perhaps the theatre is seen as entertainment which is in direct competition with sport? There is no denying it. It’s a niche market… and in the realm of entertainment niche is desirable.

The premise is fairly basic – a rugby team head to Sydney for a pub crawl (and more) where in the aim is to drink 10,000 beers between them.

Mixed responses have already come out from reviewers:
Kevin Jackson:
Mr Blake:
Mrs Blake:

And I am one of the last to weigh in…

First a declaration. I have read many of Alex Broun’s plays. MANY. And there are MANY. MANY MANY MANY plays…. some with short titles – some with long titles – most of them are short plays (10 minute plays in fact) – he has written a few full length plays – one in fact that earned him a place at the Edward Albee table via Inscription… I am even aware of the notorious anti-critic play The Critic. I have known Broun’s work for a number of years, having read alot of it – and seen productions at the festival he was running, that everyone knows he has been running – Short and Sweet. I have even been on a panel with Broun (hosted by Lee Lewis) at Griffin Theatre discussing short form theatre. His polemic about short form was overwhelming… it was the answer to the modern theatre’s scourge- boredom. He spoke wildly about the pitfalls of the long form play – using a Neil Simon play as a cautionary tale of how to bore an audience. My calm retort was perhaps that was an argument against the staging of old American full length plays – not against new Australian full length plays. So it is with great interest I went to see Broun’s full length play 10,000 Beers.

There is no doubt about it. Lee Lewis can direct. She knows how to handle actors in a space. She knows how a story should be told by the people who are telling it. She knows how to create a piece of work which visually and aurally is attractive. She knows how to attract talented people to work with her – and knows exactly how to bring out the best in them. She knows what she’s doing.

There is also no doubt that Alex Broun knows the football world inside and out – as he should he worked as a Rugby Union journalist for many years. There’s also no doubt he writes a lot of short plays.

As one of the few female reviewers there are a few things I have to admit. I love seeing the secret world of men on stage – I love eavesdropping on their conversations, especially ones where women are not present. I also am fascinated by their energy and force. I love having revealed to me a world which I don’t know and that’s what I love about theatre the most – that I can be privvy to a different life, that illuminates and informs my own world view.

10,000 Beers has the vernacular right. It shows us a world that we suspect we know. A world of mob mentality, stupidity, thuggery, misogyny, violence, excess, pride, aggression, competitiveness. We hear the jokes and jibes and they ring true. We even see some of the behaviour – disgusting and selfish and adolescent – and it rings true. And I was ready for all the things – all the prejudices about footy-players to be dispelled.

And they weren’t.

They are as we suspect – childish, selfish, meat heads who care about themselves, who are mindless as a mob, who are dangerous and dumb, who can’t communicate with women, or each other, who are excessive and who are rapists.


Where does that leave us?

What do we learn?

So Doug rapes his mate. Out of frustration? Wanting power? Or is it latent sexual desire?
I have a few problems with this. In fact I have a few problems with the play.

One, I simply don’t believe that an amateur football club from Adelaide would behave like this – this behaviour is surely more prevalent in professional sports people who are over pampered and over accomodated, molly-coddled and worshiped by fans and are celebrities.
Secondly, I doubt they’d be able to afford the cost of 10,000 beers (and a weekend away in Sydney – flights and food and accommodation)
Thirdly, I don’t think the Captain of the football team would rape someone in his team, in front of everyone and then go back to a place like Adelaide, as though nothing had happened.

There is one thing to paint a portrait – but I want to know why I should look at it? What do I learn/discover that I don’t already suspect? Where is my prejudice being challenged? What is illuminated? How am I as an audience member transformed in my thinking about these men or all men? Perhaps Broun is the historian of our time capturing this foul sociological failure of how crap men are. Seeing this, for me, is the least interesting in the issues around masculinity in sport.

And really – are men that basic?

Not in my experience. But then again there aren’t many amateur footballers I keep company with.

Lewis’s skill, eye and sensibility adds huge gravitas to this script. But it’s no great revelation. It’s an entertaining night out – you won’t be bored – especially if you favour a bit of male nudity and Aussie pub rock. But I suggest you might find a deeper message, a more detailed portrait, a more devastating philosophical revelation about the role of men in society if you sit down with a man at a pub and ask them what they think.