Produced by the Adelaide Theatre Guild
Playing at the Little Theatre 4-8th and 11-15th of October.
TICKETS: $25 Full / $20 Concession or 10+ group on 8303 5999 or www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild or BASS 131 246.
What’s the Story?
Katurian has written 400 short stories. Perhaps 20 feature children dying in horrible ways. Only one has ever been published. At the start of the play, Katurian has been blindfolded and taken into an interrogation room by two police officers of a totalitarian dictatorship. One, Ariel, tends to rely on physical brutality to get his answers. The other, Tipolski, uses mind games. As the play unfolds, we discover that there has been a recent spree of child murders that very closely resemble those in Katurian’s stories.
What’s the Problem?
Remarkably little. And I mean that. This play was written by Martin McDonagh, and if you’ve seen In Bruges then you know what you’re in for. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s slightly twisted, and the interrogations are about 80% wordy mind-games, which I love.
That said, the characters swear a lot. Like, every second f***ing sentence. I’m not exactly prudish when it comes to language myself, but McDonagh has a habit of foul-mouthed characters (see In Bruges again). The problem I have with it is that the swearing doesn’t add anything to the story. It works for Ariel most of the time, because it shows that he’s a bit rougher than the other characters, without their eloquence or intelligence, but there are other ways of showing that, and the story does them.
Eh. Just be prepared for swearin’ aplenty and you’ll be fine.
Sometimes it takes a while to get to the point. For the interrogation that’s fine – good, in fact. It makes perfect sense for Tipolski’s mindgames. They’re long, unsettling; you never know where Katurian stands or what he’s supposed to say. But even when the interrogations aren’t happening – that is, when the characters are having regular conversations, there’s the same long-winded talk.
All sound the same
The stories all sound the same. They all have the same rhythm, the same not-named characters. For Katurian that’s fine, because that’s his style, but late in the play one of other characters reads out a story that he has written and it sounds exactly the same as all of Katurian’s. There’s no change of tone with the different storyteller. He even does the same trick of not actually naming his characters; he just lists attributes (in this case, the “little retarded deaf boy”).
There’s a certain amount that you want the story to fit within the play’s structure and style, but this just feels exactly like any of the other stories, and makes them all far less special or impressive. It feels like McDonagh displaying a lack of range when he should be pulling out something unlike anything we’d have expected.
What’s the Solution?
Keep the swearing down; use it for emphasis instead of “at all times”. Cut out some of the unnecessary long-winded sections. Give different characters – who have different speaking voices and rhythms – different story styles so they feel truly different.
I don’t usually comment on acting or such here; this is for story critiques. But when watching this, I found myself wondering what any of the main characters did for their day jobs because they were all fantastic. The Little Theatre is so… little… that you can see the minutest expressions and movements, and they don’t break character at all. There was no moment when I caught a look in their eyes that said “I wonder what I’ll have for dinner tomorrow”. They were always and utterly in character. And that’s all the more impressive because the night I went only six others were in the audience. There were more actors in the play than members in the audience and they still acted the fuck out of the thing. No phoning it in or half-arsedness. Utter professionalism.
Also the script itself is fantastic. It’s dark and comedic and twisted, with plenty of mind-games and word-games. Add to that the fact that every actor is pulling his considerable weight and you’ve got a show that should be selling out every night of its run.
So… yes. Go see it.