Bright Those Claws That Mar The Flesh

Reviewed by John Grant

The byline for this 70 minute production proclaims ‘A work of startling originality and/or unbridled mania’ - and it certainly delivers on its promise. 

According to the writer and director, NIDA graduate Michael McStay, the inspiration for this cleverly written piece began with the concept of gluttony, then expanded to encompass strains of The Bacchae, the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides and a haunting poem by Sylvia Plath.

The madcap action takes place in an undefined location where anxiously determined counsellor Bertin Browoski (Sam Trottman) attempts to convene his first ever therapy session with a group of addicts. 

The group consists of the enigmatic Leda Swan (Hayley Sullivan), the bombastic high court Judge Orson Rubb (Nick Masters), the relentlessly eager-to-please Knight Errant, Edmundia Dante (Zoe Jensen), the brilliantly theatrical husband and wife acting duo, Tatiana Mendaciad & Rexion Mustyorvsky (Meg McGlindrey & Sam Devenport) with later appearances by a mercurial Arrestis Mock (Jack Angwin) and the gormless Euclid (Lawrence Rosier-Staines). 

It soon becomes clear that the hapless Browoski has taken on a group whose egos and issues far outweigh his novice abilities. It isn’t long before his control and authority fall by the wayside and are quickly replaced by methylated spirits, wine, cocaine, an ageing elixir (which is used to fast track the growth rate of a baby in a wooden crate!) and complete self-indulgence.

The dialogue throughout is fast and furious, often with minimal time for the audience laughter, which on opening night was lengthy and often.  

The madness goes up another notch when the group decides they’ll perform The Bacchae and more banter about the casting and interpretation ensues. 

In the midst of all this, the previously mute Swann breaks her Garbo-esque silence with a steely recital of the Plath poem ‘Pursuit’ from which the name of this play derives.  One by one the characters depart the stage as they discover and embrace their individual epiphanies. 

The performances in ‘Bright those claws that mar the flesh’ are uniformly excellent and combine an upbeat enthusiasm with an overarching sense that the cast are thoroughly enjoying themselves – as did the opening night audience. Don’t miss it!


What: Bright those claws that mar the flesh.

Where: The Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo

When: Until Saturday 11 June 2016

Cost: $25


For more info call Phone 0437 941 821