Review :: Bully Beef Stew

July 7th 2011


Bully Beef Stew is a bit of a mixed bag. Like it’s culinary namesake, it’s ingredients are a little hodgepodge, but hearty and fulfilling nonetheless. The show – developed, written and performed by Sonny Dallas Law, Colin Kinchela and Bjorn Stewart – is PACT’s first commission, and it’s a worthy one. Exploring contemporary Aboriginal manhood and the stereotypes that come along with it, the play is at times funny, tender, sad and insightful.

The play has been developed over several years, and this slow germination is apparent in the group. Dallas Law, Kinchela and Stewart are compelling performers, each with a very distinct presence, yet retaining a harmonious group dynamic. It’s this core of strong (yet subtle) performances that is the heart of Bully Beef Stew. The three men reflect on their relationships with their fathers, the social roles they play and are expected to play, and how they are perceived by others, swapping personas and tone with an ease that gives the play a great rhythm.

A pared back stage and costumes provide the perfect canvas for the audio-visual elements of the show, which are used to great effect, heightening the mood without distracting or overpowering. I’d also like to give props for the lighting, which is something I don’t tend to think about unless it’s either very good, or very bad. In this case, it was evocative and perfectly tailored to the show’s ups and downs.

At the end of the day, Bully Beef Stew represents everything that’s great about PACT. They’re not afraid to take risks, and more often than not this pays off. Although at points I found the show a little conceptually loose, the incredible performances at its centre and the creative staging made it a fantastic experience. Funny, sad, sincere, powerful and compelling, Bully Beef Stew marks its creators as talents to watch, and is a fantastic first foray into commissioned works for PACT. I’ll be watching keenly for their next effort.

What: Bully Beef Stew

Where: PACT Theatre, Railway Pde, Erskineville

When: Until July 9th

How much: $18 – $22


Read more from Nick La Rosa