Drinks, drugs and debauchery are all well and good, until your life falls apart. But even after then, there’s an element of humour to be found and that’s the basic premise of Ruben Guthrie, the new play from Brendan Cowell (Love My Way, Noise).
At 29 Ruben Guthrie is living his chosen life. Working as the creative director of a leading advertising agency and living with his Czech supermodel girlfriend, the man is on fire. Add a few drinks to the equation, and Ruben might even go so far as to consider himself invincible.
That is until one fateful night when an inebriated Guthrie decides to take a pike knife dive off a hotel roof into a baby pool, sparking an existential crisis.
Guthrie’s ensuing search for a new sense of self and his quest to come of age through a series of AA meetings and dalliances with his gay best friend open up a world of space to explore the role of drinking in Australian culture.
This is a play for anyone who’s ever had a drink, Brendan Cowell says, though he’s the first to admit there’s nothing better than going out and getting obliterated.
But it does need to be questioned why we make that our aim. I mean, look at the language used: smashed, slaughtered, destroyed. Why is our ambition to smash it all apart?
Ruben Guthrie, like much of Cowell’s work for TV, film and theatre, looks at middle-class Australian culture with an unabashed view to showcase its glories and highlight its vomit-soaked downsides.
Written with insight and humour, the play makes it easy to understand how Cowell has come to be touted as the young darling of the Australian theatre scene.
Theatre is my main love, Cowell said. I get excited when I’m writing a play whereas when I’m writing something like a movie I’m more worried about whether I can pull it off.
My ambition is to bring theatre to the masses. I want to make it so people don’t feel like they have to have a degree in Brecht to understand and enjoy theatre.
A lot of the time when I’ve made a play or go to the theatre I see the same people there and at times it can feel like we’re just making plays for each other.
I just want to create theatre that’s about human beings telling a story.
And that’s what Ruben Guthrie is about. It’s a yarn about a boy learning to grow up, though maybe this one is best not told at the pub.
Ruben Guthrie plays at the Belvoir Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, until 11 May. Bookings: 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au.