Review: Jacky

Melbourne Theatre Company
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
22 May to 24 June

Racism, disadvantage, “the mob” and money collide in the incendiary new work from Declan Furber Gillick, five years in the making.

Commissioned through MTC’s NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program, the cumulative impact of the 100 minutes is devastating.

Indigenous man Jacky (Guy Simon) is on the road to “making it”, or so it seems.

He is renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city and is looking to secure a bank loan to own it.

To satisfy the bank’s requirements though, notwithstanding the fact that he has built a nest egg, he must obtain a full-time job.

That is where Linda (Alison Whyte) comes in. She runs a program that invests heavily in First Nations’ Peoples.

When Jacky came to town, she secured him employment at a pub and, given his predicament, she now all but promises him full-time work.

For the time being, Jacky collects decent coin in the world’s oldest profession.

Then, Jacky’s good time, layabout brother Keith (Ngali Shaw) – who he hasn’t seen for some time – enters the frame.

Photo by Pia Johnson
Ngali Shaw (left) and Guy Simon feature in Jacky

In the first instance, Jacky offers to put him up without rent, as long as he can secure employment.

The most obvious way Keith can do so is as a baker, because it is something he has done recently.

But Keith just hangs about Jacky’s apartment, his stuff strewn everywhere, playing video games and ordering Uber Eats.

Something must change and that is when – again – Linda steps up.

Meanwhile, Jacky strikes up a relationship with Linda’s ex-husband, Glenn (Greg Stone), who has an itch that Jacky indulges in scratching.

Jacky is a remarkable, gritty, insightful and illuminating piece of work that should be widely seen.

Declan Furber Gillick’s writing, with dramaturgy from Jennifer Medway and director Mark Wilson, is powerful and provocative.

While not autobiographical, the production has been informed by Gillick’s life experiences.

The shocks and surprises are plentiful and they highlight the impact of entrenched discrimination and do-gooders.

Emotionally wrought, the performances are uniformly strong and potent, none more so than that from Guy Simon.

There’s an inherent authenticity in the interplay between the four actors.

I speak specifically of the relationships developed between Jacky and Linda, Jacky and Keith, and Jacky and Glenn.

Jacky tries his best to navigate between a black and white world, between what he sees as his past and his future … and then it all comes crashing down.

Keith has no doubt where he comes from and what is important to him, but his work ethic is questionable, at best. He comes into his own as his character evolves.

Linda’s heart may be in the right place, but her best intentions show a lack of cultural understanding and lead to a crisis of conscience for Jacky.

Glenn’s true colours are revealed early on, but his needs being met leads to, arguably, the most devastating scene in the play.

Greg Stone plays Glenn as a ticking time bomb.

Christina Smith’s large, open, sprawling set – which represents Jacky’s apartment, a hotel room and the pub – works most effectively as the play comes together.

Morality, morass and cultural appropriateness form the cornerstones of Jacky, which leaves an enduring footprint. It is playing at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until 24th June, 2023.

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Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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