Australia's Zeal Theatre presents a fascinating work based on a true story of two teenagers on trial for manslaughter.
The play was inspired by a 1994 Melbourne trial dealing with a case of this type. Nantsou and Lycos interviewed one of the detectives investigating the crime and researched court transcripts and accounts of similar incidents. The result is a wildly imaginative, entertaining, and thought-provoking work that offers no easy answers as to the boys' culpability.
The performance begins with the two performers jamming on electric guitars. Their joyous facial expressions and sense of play immediately evoke the youth of the unnamed boys they're portraying. Nantsou, physically much larger, plays the 15-year-old ringleader, while Lycos plays the 13-year-old who trails along after him. They engage in delinquent activities such as breaking into a warehouse and torturing a cat before deciding to see if they can hit the roof of a passing vehicle with a large rock.
The show utilizes only an aluminum ladder, a pair of sawhorses, the two guitars and accompanying amplification equipment to suggest the environment; everything else is left up to the performers, who mime the majority of their actions and utilize both their voices and the guitars to create sound effects. This minimalist approach works wonderfully well, stimulating the imagination and forging a connection with the audience members, who are occasionally dragged directly into the world of the piece. For example, in a scene where the boys are running away from the scene of one of their crimes, Nantsou and Lycos literally climb over patrons seated in the first few rows, as if making their way through hedges and other obstacles.
Nantsou relies primarily on external mannerisms to create his character, utilizing exaggerated facial expressions and a confident swagger. He convincingly acts the part of the bully, although we also come to understand some of the insecurities that have resulted in the character's tough façade. Lycos, on the other hand, seems to completely embody the shy, scared boy he portrays. His small frame aids in the illusion of the character's youth, and his more emotional moments -- such as his confession to the police -- seem deeply connected to his inner being.