VIOLENCE & SON
by Gary Owen.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 11 July 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Captioned 7 Jul.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 June.
Gripping, if finally contrived, domestic drama.
Whether as cockpit, circus ring or bear-baiting arena designer Cal Dyfan’s small circular stage in the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs has a claustrophobic look. It might well.
It’s home – if that’s quite the word – to a not-quite family. Part of 17-year old Liam’s sadness over his mother’s death some months back is that he’s having to live in Wales with his father, now shacked-up with Suze.
The older folks’ high-time together – their first appearance heralded by delighted whoops signifying some stonking bonking – contrasts Liam’s awkwardness with Jen, one year and several degrees more mature than he is.
There are lots of layers to remove before the truth comes out, starting with the Dr Who costumes the teenagers wear from a convention they’ve visited. Then Jen’s surprised to discover, through Liam’s painfully comic hesitations, he fancies her.
Gary Owen’s an experienced playwright who finds convincing circumstances to give reality to his characters, to the dynamics between different relationships, and incidental circumstances. Humour mixes with sympathetic tension in Liam’s shyness with Jen, contrasting open hostility to the father who keeps trying to be affable.
There’s a sense of threat about Rick for all he keeps denying it. More like, he locks it away until alcohol reveals all – veritas in lager cans. For a long time his behaviour’s in the balance; Jason Hughes’ hangdog stance in apologetic mode soon sweeps away at the next swig.
He also tells a story about doing the wrong thing for the right reason, a repugnant act of violence which had positive results. But the culmination is how Liam lines-up with ‘Violence’, his father’s jocular nickname from way back. As the title suggests, the inheritance is as firm as son joining father in a family business.
By then, even the strong acting in Hamish Pirie’s alert and active production can’t hide the dramatic predestination of the later scenes. Mostly, though, Owen’s strongly acted script – David Moorst making geeky Liam an interesting centre-piece, and the women impressive in roles less developed than the males – adds truthful human comedy and tension to the Ghosts of Ibsen-like family drama.
Jen: Morfydd Clark.
Rick: Jason Hughes.
Liam: David Moorst.
Suze: Siwan Morris.
Director: Hamish Pirie.
Designer: Cal Dyfan.
Lighting: Lizzie Powell.
Sound/Composer: Mark Melville.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Roy Alexander Weise.