The death of Scott Johnson on Manly’s North Head is the centrepiece and emotional touchstone of Fairly Lucid Productions’ show The Reckoning. Originally put down as a suicide, the truth of this has only recently been questioned, and now it is not thought to be a gay hate crime. The various viewpoints on this story are explored through monologues prepared by thirteen different writers. The Reckoning is ambitious in scale, but it is let down in parts by this same ambition.
Ben Noble portrays every character in this show, and he is a wonder, taking on the multiple voices with ease. He effortlessly glides between each story, adding something special to each one. At one point he is a midwife, bringing Johnson into the world and simultaneously seeing his death, the next he is imagined as Johnson’s killer, bristling with menace. There is obvious emotion in his performance. His passion for this project is palpable, resulting in real tears and real pain.
This show is perhaps a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. The multiple voices of each story are appropriately distinctive, but they do not flow successfully into one another. The monologues are handled effectively by Noble, but without any guidance for the audience and with no sense of time or place, the narrative becomes flawed and confusing.
The use of music to knit scenes together is inspired, but is not executed well. Noble’s voice is adequate, but the songs are not especially memorable. They do not even seem inspired by the source material at all, coming across as average love ballads. Although there is one disco song in the middle that is very good, helping set the scene for a 1980s Sydney scene.
There is something incredibly noble about this show. Its dedication to the truth of its material seeps into every scene, imbuing them with a pulsating heat. There is no doubt that a lot of well-placed emotion and rage has gone into this production, however the discordant effect created by the jarring scenes and use of music goes against the power of the show. Its lasting force is in its message, not of tolerance, but of anger. The Reckoning goes a long way to rile the emotions of its audience in its stirring portrayal of a homosexual man’s life, cut short. It wants you to be angry about the injustice of Johnson’s death—and if this production has done its job, you will be angry.