From Sydney, NSW
Thomas Murray and the Upside Down River
by Reg Cribb
Writer: Reg Cribb
Cast: Grant Cartwright, Vanessa Downing, Nicholas Papademetriou, Francesa Savige and Bjorn Stewart.
Images: Robert Catto
Invoking the expansive, isolating beauty of rural Australia, Reg Cribb’s epic new play is about a man ravaged by drought, family secrets and love.
The Murray family have been farming the land along the Darling River for five generations. For Tom Murray, it’s all he’s ever known. When his childhood friends Lucy and Billy reappear, deep friendships are tested, and secrets, long buried, are finally awakened – Tom must make the long journey down-stream to reconcile past wrongs and to fight for his wife.Reg Cribb is a highly-awarded playwright and screenwriter. His plays Last Cab to Darwin and The Return / Last Train to Freo have been adapted into feature films and he wrote the screenplay for the award-winning Bran Nue Dae.
“Big sky. Big river. Big betrayal. Big secrets exposed as the river recedes. Thomas Murray is a lot of play for your money… Chris Bendall’s direction is imaginative, fluent in its handling of the play’s temporal shifts and notably physical. Designer Dann Barber’s wooden ramp of a stage has all kinds of surprises built into it. Kingsley Reeve’s sound design twangs and shimmers.” Sydney Morning Hearld, Jason Blake
“Reg Cribb is a writer whose imagination catches fire when presented with the everyday dramas and dreams of ‘ordinary’ Australians…The play is a rich exploration of character and story. The language crackles with humour, bitterness and authenticity.” Stage Noise, Diana Simmonds
“Grant Cartwright as Thomas Murray is wonderful. Understated, focused and riveting to watch… The production was well conceptualized and lovingly created, under the direction of Chris Bendall, weaving clever design, soundscape, choreography and lighting into the storytelling to create scale in a scaled down space.” Australian Stage, Dennis Clements
“Thomas Murray and the Upside Down River is an important and interesting work that explores the secrets and lies retained for generations along with society’s mistreatment and prejudice of the original landowners. It is well executed, retaining a good pace and honesty with a blend of humour and hurt.” Broadway World Review, by Jade Kops
" **** The beating heart of the piece is Grant Cartwright's masterful Thomas Murray, whose silences occupy an an almost physical presence in the performance space, breathing down the neck of each audience member. The Stables' minuscule stage works excellently with Dann Barber's set here, with its unfurling planks of wood uncovering a wide river, and deep gashes on the stage. It's a play that creeps up on you, much like a psychological thriller — in that you don't realise you haven't blinked until the lights come up. The final act is thrilling, almost cinematic, bringing the bubbling tensions to a head in a thoroughly cathartic manner. Skip The Revenant and see this one instead." The Music
"The play features excellent performances from all, with Grant Cartwright a stand out. He gives an intense and commanding performance in what is a demanding role, yet he never falters. An ingenious set provides the cast a landscape filled with natural beauty and painful reminders of the past and sound design by Kingsley Reeve perfectly captured the resonances of the country life. Lighting also provided a dramatic backdrop that helped fuel the struggle that Thomas Murray faced after his life seemed in tatters. Chris Bendall’s direction tackles the vast story with skill and provides a production that sparks wonder with his imaginative interpretation." The Buzz from Sydney
"So glad I had the chance to see the play this afternoon. An ambitious script with a beautiful ear for rural speech patterns; utterly committed performances; superb sound, lighting and design; and sensitively and tightly directed with a great awareness of the Griffin stage. Thank you Chris and team - definitely worth flying up for." Richard Watts, Arts Hub