FringeReview UK 2017
Gary Owen‘s Killology transfers from the Sherman Theatre Cardiff to the Royal Court where his Violence and Son made such an impression. A raw three-hander directed by Rachel O’Riordan it’s a work utilising Gary McCann’s iron-grey slag-heap of a set. At one striking moment Kevin Treacy’s grim lighting fingers a pink child’s bicycle, dangling. Simon Salter’s music and sound thrums menace precisely, economically from mood to hospital bed.
Gary Owen’s known for snagging at those twists fathers transmit to sons: more screw-up than helix. His 2015 Violence and Son snaps the single strand – a son’s innate empathy – that distinguishes him from the eponymous Violence, his father.
Killology‘s a different stripped-down play transferring from the Sherman Theatre Cardiff to the Royal Court where Violence and Son made such an impression. This time Owen scrutinises two very different strands then splices them with an electric jolt. The title referencing a ‘moral’ sadopathic game shows how un-domesticated this is though naturally a family’s violation springs the drama.
A raw three-hander directed by Rachel O’Riordan it’s a work utilising Gary McCann’s iron-grey slag-heap of a set with cables coiled into mounds snaked around oily pools of water, more cables hanging down. At one striking moment Kevin Treacy’s grim lighting fingers a pink child’s bicycle, dangling: it’s a sword of Damocles. Simon Salter’s music and sound thrums menace precisely, economically from mood to hospital bed. Characters echt-Friel narrate their circumstances solo like angry somnambulists, though occasionally interact.
Sean Gleeson’s Alan is the father who vanishes leaving the gift of a dog to son Davey, played with gaping hurt by Sion Daniel Young. Young’s narrative of what befalls him and his dog at the hands of murderous bullies sets up the kind of revenge trope transferred paradoxically to a boy from the other side of the ropes. Richard Mylan’s affluent Paul is given opportunities to shine – literally, his offstage father shows him night and stars – and ends creating Killology, that virtual game where you score points for creatively torturing those you’re about to kill. The snag: you suffer moral consequences.
This snakes back to Alan announcing murder at the start, how he gains access to Paul’s house and why he wants to kill him along Killology lines. Owen’s critique of such gaming will resonate with many, so he’s asking what if we invert the moral, will an audience applaud such an avatar of retribution? But then Killology itself boasts a moral function, so that too should slither unexpectedly into play.
It’s one of the few times two characters interact, and the effect’s taut as one of the hawsers either man pulls on as Sean wrestles with his conscience – looking at a young man like his son – and allows Paul a loophole for his noose. Gleeson’s lean hungry delivery tenses with vocal cables too, sawing into hurt with a rasp of desolation. He looks primed at one point, suddenly relaxed into tenderness and vulnerability moments later. Mylan never is: he exudes the sociopathic svelte of privilege, his entitlement masking then unsheathing his own blank fury against his father, visited on everyone else.
All this while we’ve followed Davey’s narrative which bifurcates in Young’s consummate yawp. You can see why he was in Curious Incident. In one there’s a possibility, how he extracts himself to become a nurse and ends up discovering his father. Paul’s empty existence blows like a puffball safe to America. Urged paradoxically to adopt a child, he discovers fear. Will it save or destroy him, or will he not face up to either?
Oscillations of violence and begotten tenderness vibrate into a terrible empathy for both. Though we’re treated to a coda where Davey stands at a crossroads it’s a play that like several recent post-Constellation dramas takes different outcomes for a walk and ends by throwing them at ‘the stars/Unreachable above me.’