THE RITUAL SLAUGHTER OF GORGE MASTROMAS
by Dennis Kelly.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 19 October 2013.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat &3, 10, 17 Oct 3.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Oct 3.30pm.
Captioned 16 Oct.
Post-show Talk 1 Oct.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 September.
Darkness visible in play suggesting there’s nothing new under the sun.
He’s called “George” but loses the ‘e’ in written form. Maybe to suggest he does gorge himself on others in the appetite for wealth and power the character develops following the moment of revelation when the manipulations of a business rival, with her fifth columnist support, drive Gorge’s boss out of business.
It’s part of a syndrome first defined on stage by Bernard Shaw’s Boss Mangan in Heartbreak House, the person who can seem a friend but gives money to someone who does not understand how things work, then lets him grow the plant before plucking it himself.
Matched with that is the subliminal sexual element when the predator is a woman, the victim male. Gorge watches from the sideline, silent and subservient. But something’s awakened in him, the realisation that what’s taken for Goodness is merely Cowardice. Backed up by the identification of a shadowy club of the conscience-free super-rich who really control the world.
We have been here before, whether in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, believing he is a naturally superior person with the right to break laws, or, more centrally, Richard Wagner’s adaptation of the Nibelungenlied, where throwing-over love (or any kind of human affection) gives the one who can grasp wealth, power over everything.
Denis Kelly opens his play with a feature of other recent Royal Court plays, the panel line-up speaking out front. This is the longest example, and it comes at the beginning, describing George from pre-conception to youth. What emerges is a factual history devoid of any moral clothing. In such a view goodness is alien, a cover for cowardice.
In later life, Tom Brooke takes on George, showing bafflement followed by a corresponding blankness that lies and kills as naturally as a predatory, self-protecting animal.
Brooke, as always, is precise within an apparently narrow compass that expresses almost more by implication than external action. Among a fine cast Pippa Haywood has a confident amorality and Alan Williams brings inward intensity to the fall of a once-powerful boss, and some welcome natural comedy elsewhere during Kelly’s shaping of old truths in a modern context.
Gorge: Tom Brooke.
A: Pippa Haywood.
Pete: Joshua James.
Gel: Jonathan McGuinness.
Hotel Porter: Aaron Monaghan.
Louisa: Kate O’Flynn.
M: Alan Williams.
Director: Vicky Featherstone.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Music: Nick Powell.
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Assistant director: Ned Bennett.