Few moments in sporting history have achieved the infamy of last year’s ball tampering scandal, when members of the Australian men’s cricket team took sandpaper onto the field in a moment of desperation and weakness which left the world of Australian sport reeling.
Within the shock, disappointment and bitterness, there was something strangely funny about the situation to playwright and self-confessed Australian cricket tragic, Xavier Coy.
“I was bewildered at the stupidity it took to take a piece of sandpaper out onto the field and think that they could get away with it,” says Xavier.
“What happened in that room? How did they come to the decision? If there wasn’t sandpaper around what else could they have fashioned into a ball tampering device? Just how in the shit did they feel in that change room to resort to sandpaper?”
“I went away with all that swirling around in my head and what came out was Caught Out, a satire about Skip, Bull and Runt, three players desperate to do their country proud. They’re getting battered from pillar to post and have the weight of the country on their shoulders. It’s a look inside the dressing room, when the number one ranking in the world is slipping away.”
Caught Out first performed to a sell-out season at Sydney Fringe last year, where it won the NIDA Award for Best Writer. The remount at Bondi Feast is particularly timely, sandwiched between the Cricket World Cup and next Ashes series in England.
“When we put it on last year, the players at the centre of the scandal had been banned and we didn’t know what was going to happen with them – there were more questions than answers. Now they’re back and David Warner is one of the highest run scorers at the World Cup, it’s quite surreal.”
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Set inside the locker room of the Australian cricket team, the play examines themes of national identity and personal crisis – what happens when self-interest trumps teamwork? How does pressure affect a man’s moral compass? How can players forget who they’re representing?
“As somebody who also loves sport, this play ticks a few boxes for me,” says director Laurence Coy.
“The world Xavier has built – taking us inside the dressing room of a desperate national cricket team on the edge of imploding – is a very stimulating place to spend time. We’re all loving the characters, and we’re working much more like a team than the subjects of the play are.”
This teamwork has a long history – Laurence is Xavier’s uncle, and much of their close relationship is built on a shared passion for both sport and theatre.
“Xavier’s writing craft is exceptional. He creates desperate characters, puts them in torturous situations, then gives them the most delicious language to use as they try to manage their circumstances,” says Laurence. “At his young age he is one of the great comedy writers in this country. He knows how a set up a laugh, build tension, then detonate it. It’s a rare skill and one that’s loved by both actors and audiences.”
“Loz was the first person to read my writing and really encourage me to keep going with it,” says Xavier. “Ever since then I’ve been desperate to get him involved in my work, whether it be as an actor or director. I can’t think of a more appropriate play for him to helm because my uncles are to blame for my sporting obsession.”
Despite being based on one of Australian cricket’s darkest days, Caught Out is a quick-witted comedy for cricket and non-cricket fans alike.
“We had a great time doing the show at the Fringe and one of the things we heard a lot was how much people that didn’t know anything about cricket loved the show. It’s a lot of fun,” says Xavier. “You’re seeing people make poor decisions under enormous pressure, only these mistakes brought up questions of national identity! There’s something in it for everyone, whether you’re a cricket fan or just want to come and have a laugh.”
Caught Out plays Bondi Feast, July 18-20