Freak Winds, by Marshall Napier | Directed by Marshall Napier

Red Line Productions | Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo, Sydney | Until 11 April

I’m really pleased that Red Line Productions has resurrected Marshall Napier’s Freak Winds, because it is a most excellent and most provocative play.

Most excellent largely because of Napier’s tightly written script and, in this case at least, some fine direction from Napier and some fine acting from him and his cohorts on stage.

Most provocative because of Napier’s willingness to tackle taboo subjects, mostly taboo sexual subjects.

I have a feeling that Alfred Hitchcock, that absolute master of suspense, would approve deeply of Freak Winds, and would also have reveled in the sexual and political freedom that a truly post-McCarthy world has provided.

Ernest (Marshall Napier) is an apparently reclusive loner with a seemingly unhealthy appetite for recording the demise of unfortunate women and for keeping his knives razor-blade sharp.

Henry Crumb (Ben O’Toole) is a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed insurance salesman who picks what must be the stormiest night of the year to make a pitch for Ernest’s business.

Napier’s sharply edged portrayal of Ernest’s ever-lurking danger constantly has the audience squirming as one, while Crumb’s descent into a quivering heap masked by bravado is brilliantly portrayed by O’Toole.

But is Ernest the loner we initially imagined? Perhaps not, as his incredibly beautiful, wheelchair-constrained daughter/companion Myra (Anna Bamford) makes a somewhat surprising entrance just before intermission.

The sexual tension created by her appearance is palpable, and plays, Medusa-like, in many directions.

To say much more — apart from describing the final moments as truly apocalyptic — would be giving away the playwright’s and actors’ hard-worked construction of genuine tension.

So I won’t. But do go and see this wonderful work and do take the chance of having a bite to eat and an ale or glass of wine in one of Sydney’s finest and most friendly pubs.

Just one question remains. What was in those medicine bottles that Myra was quaffing?

Anna Bamford and Ben O'Toole.
All images: Tim Levy.

Marshall Napier.

Anna Bamford.