The brutal sexual assault and murder of registered nurse Anita Cobby in Sydney in 1986 was a crime that shocked and sickened the nation. And still does.

So when an “imaginative response” to that crime comes to life on stage next week in Kingston in the Australian play The Boys, it’s hard for director Amy Kowalczuk to know how her audience might feel.

Director Amy Kowalczuk. Photo: Mark Actually

“Our lived experience – and our lack thereof – alters how we view art,” Amy says.

“I hope through my blended directorial approach that women will not have the damage of their lived experience take over.

“I hope that men will be able to position themselves in the work without thinking, ‘I’m not a man like that, this isn’t about me’. 

“Ultimately, I can’t assume how an audience will feel – but I’m doing everything I can to make our theatrical space one of hope and one that demands change.”

Alex Hoskison as Brett and Meaghan Stewart as Michelle. Photo: Mark Actually

The Boys is the first show attached to the ACT Hub in Kingston’s Hub Too initiative and will be staged at a new performance venue that’s actually the old Causeway Hall. It’s also the first production for Alchemy Artistic, a company started by Amy with the vision of showcasing new and existing works that approach traumatic societal issues.

The Canberra season of The Boys is far more than a ‘sit and watch’ experience. 

Cole Hilder as Glenn and Alex Hoskison as Brett. Photo: Mark Actually

Audience members are welcome to stay after the show for a Q&A session to discuss the theme of gendered violence in a “safe space”.

“I want the audience to develop a nuanced understanding of the cycle of violence,” Amy says.

“It’s vital to create space for discussion with work like this and more than that, it’s just plain bloody interesting. 

“This is a commitment to my business mission – to create space for rumination for our works.”

From left: Queanbeyan’s Caitlin Baker (Nola), Meaghan Stewart (Michelle), Liz St Clair (Sandra) and Indy Scarletti (Jackie). Photo: Mark Actually

One of the producers of The Boys, Joe Woodward, is a Queanbeyan resident, and the show also stars Queanbeyan actor Caitlin Baker as Nola (the pregnant girlfriend of one of the perpetrators).

It’s not easy work by any definition but The Boys has certainly emerged as worthy work, for both the cast and crew,” Caitlin says.

“Gendered violence is a hard topic on a good day – and COVID certainly hasn’t made many spaces more inviting – but I’ve found myself more excited by the challenges than scared – which is a really invigorating experience. 

“Amy is fantastic at pushing us, and making sure we have a soft place to land. 

“We’re definitely making sure that the tough conversations start in the rehearsal room and hopefully outlive the foyer.”

The details

What: The Boys
Where: ACT Hub in Kingston (Causeway Hall)
When: Wednesday 13-Sunday 16 April 2022
Tickets: http://alchemyartistic.com.au/bookings-and-information/
Q&A sessions: 
Wednesday – all audience members.
Thursday – female-identifying audience members.
Friday – male-identifying audience members.
Saturday – all audience members.
Non binary, gender queer and queer audience members are invited to participate in Q&A sessions wherever they feel safe and comfortable.

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