It’s a sign of the times. Once upon a time male dancers might be concerned about gay stereotypes, but Angus Cerini has bigger issues at stake. He’s angry about stereotypes of straight men, angry that men are killing themselves and angry that survivors of child abuse are being silenced.
It does trouble me that men fit into these really clich?stereotypes, Cerini said. We either beat women up or we kill ourselves or we’re an AFL footballer. And if we’re an AFL footballer we go and urinate on a woman at Crown Casino or we send SMS text messages to some other woman and we root our best mate’s wife. All this sort of stuff. And Ablett bloody drugs a girl up. Who are our role models? What do we as young men have to call on?
Melbourne-based Cerini talks like a Gatling gun, but with a paradoxical sensitivity and compassion. He’s about to show his latest solo performance at the Sydney Opera House, a physical theatre journey about a young boy’s violent and disturbing upbringing entitled Saving Henry. His previous works include Filch, about the survival of a street kid called Monkey, and the prequel Smashbrat, in which audiences witnessed the abuse that led to Monkey’s homelessness. This ain’t Riverdance, and Cerini’s no Michael Flatley.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been looking at similar sorts of issues, Cerini said. The company I run is very concerned with giving a voice to those without one -¦ those people or those stories that are perhaps under-represented -¦ an individual trapped in a world they can’t control.
Saving Henry is showing as part of a double bill with Crowds, a light-hearted physical examination of crowd dynamics by Chunky Move. It’s going to be an evening of extremes, although Cerini insists his current work isn’t as grim as it used to be.
There was a point in my life years ago, when I did this really full-on, scream-at-an-audience kind of shows -¦ and it was just so bleak and awful that you left after an hour in the theatre feeling completely drained and ruined. And I don’t think that’s entirely fair, he said.
This show isn’t really about dark things, it’s more about the beautiful things, the hope, the innocence. What the show’s trying to do is create a very, very safe environment where we can render evil and render awful things but in an environment where we know at all times that forces of what is good and what is true and what is right control the space, Cerini said.
Cerini once told an interviewer he’s been that kid, and even in adulthood survived a violent beating in 1996 when he acted in defence of women on a train. When I ask him what he does to relax, he’s completely thrown: no one ever asks him that question. Long walks is the answer, or playing drums, which seems more likely.
I guess my job is to be a bit of a rabble-rouser and while the governor-general and John Howard and all the media pretty much are talking about what the governor-general did or didn’t do, I want to be here for that kid who’s sitting there thinking, well, I can’t tell anyone about this because nothin’ll happen anyway. I think that’s appalling.
Saving Henry by Angus Cerini is playing with Chunky Move’s Crowds at the Sydney Opera House Studio from 3 to 13 September, Wednesday to Saturday at 8: 15pm. Phone 9250 7777 for bookings or visit www.sydneyoperahouse.com/thestudio.