Stuart: A Life Backwards @ Underbelly

Review by Stephanie Green | 22 Aug 2013
  • Stuart: A Life Backwards

Stuart is a homeless man suffering from motor neurone disease, a larger-than-life motormouth, enchanting but unpredictable, and at risk, criminal and mentally unstable. This is a brilliant production, at times hilarious, but deeply moving adaptation by Jack Thorne of Alexander Masters' biography, which charts a surprising relationship through employing a jump-cut, flash-back style. 

Using physical theatre, ensemble routines with break-neck speed, a metal frame set shifts for different scenes, we are thrust into a campaign protesting against the wrongful imprisonment of two shelter-workers. Stuart explodes onto the stage and with his "right down the line" opinions about the reality of a homeless life, silencing the middle-class do-gooders. As Stuart takes over their campaign, bookish Alexander becomes fascinated by Stuart and wants to write his life. A fragile relationship develops between them, but at crucial moments Stuart always lets him down. Stuart is equally disappointed at how "boring" Alexander 's academic book makes him sound.

"Find out what murdered the boy I was." Who that boy was and how he was destroyed, is revealed as the play unravels backwards and Alexander uncovers Stuart's terrible childhood. Stuart's ultimate fate is shocking and almost unbearable. The stunning quality of this production is not surprising given the award-winning writer, director, and cast involved. Fraser Ayres as Stuart is outstanding. Will Adamsdale is indisposed on the day I attend, but even with director Mark Rosenblatt standing in on book, Stuart: A Life Backwards still merits 5 stars. A must see.

Stuart: A Life Backwards @ Topside, Underbelly, 3.30pm, until 26 Aug (not 12), various prices.