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THEATRE: 24 SEPTEMBER 2015

By SANDRA BOWDEN

Britannia Waves the Rules, by Gareth Farr | Directed by Deborah Mulhall

Sydney Fringe Festival 2015 | New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney | Until 26 September

When playwright Gareth Farr was creating the character of pissed-off and directionless Blackpool poet Carl Jackson (Vincent Andriano), he surely set the bar high. Not only does this role demand roller-coaster emotional range and the lion’s share of this 90-minute play, the actor must also be ridiculously fit — because Carl Jackson runs. He runs to shake off the torpor of his home town. He runs as he prepares for combat. He runs for his life.

Britannia Waves the Rules makes its too-brief Australian premiere over four nights of the Sydney Fringe Festival. Hopefully it — and Andriano — will get the opportunity for a longer run soon.

From the moment Andriano’s Carl crawls out from under the massive Union Jack draped across the stage, it is difficult to look anywhere else. Desperate to escape the sort of small life his parents and peers have accepted, he pounds the streets and sands of Blackpool in search of something bigger.

An exhortation to “see the world!” via the Armed Forces seems the answer. At first it seems perfect: mates; excitement; more running; Africa; Germany.

Then Afghanistan. And this Boy’s Own Adventure suddenly becomes deadly serious. Apart from the setting, it’s not an especially new idea — yet it works. When he eventually returns, Carl finds home is even more alien than when he left. How does he carry on after what he has witnessed?

Well supported by Jane Angharad, Patrick Cullen, Alan Faulkner and Nick Rowe, Britannia Waves the Rules is, however, a very individual story of what is faced when the running finally stops.