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Imaginative New Aussie Drama

Source: Northern Beaches Council
Archived 2 Apr 2018 - Posted: 5 Feb 2018
Production Shot (c) Robert Catto
Invoking the expansive, isolating beauty of rural Australia, Reg Cribb’s epic new play Thomas Murray & The Upside Down River is about a man ravaged by drought, family secrets and love.

The quintessential Australian drama features actor Grant Cartwright (Love Child, Barracuda) who recently won over hearts as Charlie Conlon in Stones in His Pockets at Glen Street Theatre last year. Also in the cast is Francesca Savige (Burke and Wills, Home and Away, Packed to the Rafters), Nicholas Papademetriou (Stringer) and Bjorn Stewart (ABC TV’s Black Comedy).

Reg Cribb is a multi-award winning playwright and screenwriter. His plays Last Cab to Darwin and The Return / Last Train to Freo have been adapted into feature films and also he wrote the screenplay for the award-winning Bran Nue Dae

Indigenous themes are central to the work and the story that revolves around Thomas Murray unearthing family secrets.

“As much as this is a play about dealing with one man’s past it is also very much about our country’s present and about our relationship with the land,” says Director Chris Bendall. “It is both a memory play and an odyssey, traversing time and unearthing secrets buried long ago. Bringing its epic scale to the stage has been a hugely exciting challenge for us all.”


The Murray family have been farming the land along the Darling River for five generations. For Tom Murray, it’s all he’s ever known. When his childhood friends Lucy and Billy reappear, deep friendships are tested, and secrets, long buried, are finally awakened – Tom must make the long journey down-stream to reconcile past wrongs and to fight for his wife.


“Big sky. Big river. Big betrayal. Big secrets exposed as the river recedes. Thomas Murray is a lot of play for your money… Chris Bendall’s direction is imaginative, fluent in its handling of the play’s temporal shifts and notably physical. Designer Dann Barber’s wooden ramp of a stage has all kinds of surprises built into it. Kingsley Reeve’s sound design twangs and shimmers.”
- Sydney Morning Herald, Jason Blake

“Reg Cribb is a writer whose imagination catches fire when presented with the everyday dramas and dreams of ‘ordinary’ Australians…The play is a rich exploration of character and story. The language crackles with humour, bitterness and authenticity.”
- Stage Noise, Diana Simmonds

The beating heart of the piece is Grant Cartwright's masterful Thomas Murray, whose silences occupy an almost physical presence in the performance space, breathing down the neck of each audience member. It's a play that creeps up on you, much like a psychological thriller — in that you don't realise you haven't blinked until the lights come up. The final act is thrilling, almost cinematic, bringing the bubbling tensions to a head in a thoroughly cathartic manner. Skip The Revenant and see this one instead."
- The Music

“Grant Cartwright as Thomas Murray is wonderful. Understated, focused and riveting to watch… The production was well conceptualized and lovingly created, under the direction of Chris Bendall, weaving clever design, soundscape, choreography and lighting into the storytelling to create scale in a scaled down space.”
- Australian Stage, Dennis Clements

"The play features excellent performances from all, with Grant Cartwright a stand out. He gives an intense and commanding performance in what is a demanding role, yet he never falters. An ingenious set provides the cast a landscape filled with natural beauty and painful reminders of the past and sound design by Kingsley Reeve perfectly captured the resonances of the country life. Lighting also provided a dramatic backdrop that helped fuel the struggle that Thomas Murray faced after his life seemed in tatters. Chris Bendall’s direction tackles the vast story with skill and provides a production that sparks wonder with his imaginative interpretation."
- The Buzz

Thomas Murray & The Upside Down River, By Reg Cribb

20 – 25 February 2018

Tue 6.30pm, Wed - Sat 8pm, Wed 11am, Sat 2pm and Sun 5pm

Glen Street Theatre. Corner of Glen Street and Blackbutts Road, Belrose


  • $65 - $36. Student Rush tickets just $16. Transaction charges may apply
  • Available online or 9975 1455

Patrons’ Advice: 15+ occasional coarse language and adult themes

This article archived 2 Apr 2018

Francesca Savige, Grant Cartwright
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