We know that bad news travels in threes but that doesn’t make it any easier for Tim to swallow the wrong turns his life has taken. In the inaugural performance for the rebranded Marrickville Theatre Company (formerly Bulldog Theatre Company), one man tries to sort his life out once and for all.
Written and performed solo by Alex Lykos, Jawbone follows Tim through a breakup, the death of his mother, and the loss of his job all while facing near-constant confrontation by men who are happier, healthier, and certainly wealthier than he is. A red Jaguar sports car becomes a particularly potent symbol of what a failure Tim is compared to everyone around him. But after a few days of wild behaviour and serious contemplation of suicide, Tim starts to re-examine his relationship with his flawed family and hope for a better understanding of himself and his place in the world opens up.
Lykos’s performed with confidence and conviction as he navigated road rage, his mother’s funeral, and various conversations with family both hostile and friendly. Sound composition from George Ellis included diegetic sound clips of traffic and the voices of other characters, most especially Tim’s recently deceased mother, as well as more emotive mood music that punctuated the tender confessional moments of Tim’s monologue. The glimpses Lykos offered of Tim’s complicated back story with an absent father and distant brother were the most compelling aspect of the narrative but they were often isolated in angry retorts and in solemn moments under a purple wash of light.
The intended tone of Jawbone was difficult to pin down because of the great discrepancy in mood and delivery. For the majority of the production, Lykos was a proper showman, a ringleader booming out to his audience and directing every element of the world around his character. But without the appropriate attention paid to Tim’s anecdotes about pain and loss, the diversions from comedy felt out of place. Speaking of comedy, the off-colour joke about child abuse by priests, the trivialisation of the #MeToo movement, and a completely uncalled-for use of the N-word really let the air out of the show’s humour overall. [Note: These jokes have since been cut and will not appear in future performances.]
Most people will experience a time in their lives when they feel like Tim: kicked in the guts and just waiting the final shove over the edge. Jawbone would have been a funny, relatable affirmation of the mid-life crisis if, rather than leaning into shock-factor humour that punched down, it amped up the self-deprecation and self-awareness instead.
Jawbone is running at the Factory Theatre from June 3rd – 13th
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