Fair Play Lads

9 September 2014 | 4:35 pm | Izzy Tolhurst

The Sublime explores how the group creates a “media circus” a term that’s almost synonymous with the modern sports team

Renowned actor, screenwriter and director Brendan Cowell is no stranger to portraying and exploring all things masculine. Having featured in the acclaimed series Love My Way, played Australian wicket keeper Rod Marsh in the drama miniseries Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, and written an episode in the TV realisation of Chris Tsiolkas’ The Slap, Cowell is also profoundly experienced in portrayals of, and challenges to Australian culture.

His latest offering in the MTC 2014 season is The Sublime, a play that, “cuts through the media-managed world of professional football to the human flaws that threaten to bring everything undone”. Josh McConville plays Dean, the Brownlow medal-winning AFL player.

“My character is older and he’s a bit more grounded. My brother (NRL player Liam, played by Ben O’Toole) is more of the evil character, so I guess the audience will side with me to a degree.”

The Sublime explores how the group creates a “media circus” – a term that’s almost synonymous with the modern sports team. One has only to cast their mind back misdemeanors of the St Kilda football club in 2011, or the more recent ‘liquidation’ of NRL player Todd Carney, to know its merits. The play also fiercely tackles the old adage, ‘What happens on footy trip, stays on footy trip.’

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“I think it’s a pretty taboo topic. In the news it gets brought up and then you never hear about it again, but I think it’s happening more often. It’s definitely a topic that needs to be discussed, so I mean, why not discuss it in theatre! It’s ambitious, and it’s probably going to offend people, but that’s what theatre’s here to do, to raise questions and answer them.”

McConville has been busy in the lead-up to The Sublime’s launch, appearing in three films currently screening at MIFF. His character in The Infinite Man is also called Dean, but McConville is quick to separate them: “They’re almost opposite characters; one’s a scientist, and the other’s an AFL player. You don’t often get those two mixing!”

In preparing for blokey, footy-boy Dean, however, McConville says that in addition to watching a lot of football and undertaking regular, strenuous exercise, “The preparation has involved working closely with Brendan, to nut out the best possible play we can get.”

And the best play will reveal itself due largely to the lighting, says McConville. “In my opinion the lighting is going to have a big effect on how we perform this play, because the stage is minimal, and a bit verbatim. I think the lighting will help us distinguish the worlds we’re in.”

22 Aug — 4 Oct, Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio