Asking a lot

22 April 2019

An intriguing set and use of sound aren't enough to enlighten Joseph Winer

I feel sorry for Killology and the way I engaged with it. It’s the end of an intense week of watching theatre. Trying to put my thoughts together in forms that seem coherent and justified. I’ve already sat in theatre spaces for over fourteen hours now in the last five days. Only a few hours earlier I spent ninety minutes with A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. I worked really hard for this as a spectator, and I’m not sure, physically, emotionally, that I can do it again right now. My body is exhausted. Dehydrated. Craving sleep. Leicester has suddenly been exposed to heat and sunlight. I try to find some water before the start of the show, and the Sue Townsend can’t provide me with any. From the moment I sit down, this production has to fight against all these external conditions it has not prepared itself for. That it shouldn’t have had to prepare itself for. So I try to focus. I try to listen to the text, to watch the three actors work. But It’s hard. And I apologise to the company of this show, because I couldn’t give it the attention it would have received a few days earlier.

But then I think about times where I’ve been really unwell and still been captivated by a performance. Where a theatre space has been boiling hot and I’ve sat uncomfortably sweating, yet where something about a show has still managed to engross me. Killology for the most part is three actors speaking monologues in three separate spotlights. There are limited interactions. Blocking is static. It heavily relies on its actors’ delivery; the way they embody the text; how their bodies, through gesture, expression and breath, reel us in to a narrative. And this style is resisted by my exhaustion.

I find an initial sense of intrigue in the set. Its detail and build is magnificent. A barricade of material, as if sourced from a skip: a tyre, collection of wires and metals, a large industrial fan, a wooden window frame, some broken furniture and hanging webs of dust. But the lighting is so dark throughout the entire play, that this set is practically lost in the background. Technology is used really intelligently at times. A striking image as the rubbish heap is lit from behind, the light leaking through the cracks. Sound builds at moments of intense drama. A moment of torture, the weaponry strikes, forces my body into recoil. But the play with technology isn’t consistent. Actors’ faces aren’t effectively lit. In states of dark blue I have to squint to focus the stage images. 

The story explores the relationship between violent video games and real-life violence. But it doesn’t really give us anything new to think about. There’s not so much dramatic conflict as there is graphic scenes and descriptions of torture. Anger is usually displayed by screaming, screeching and shouting. There are more interesting ways to get angry than raising your voice and shrieking. For us to sympathise with your pains, you need to draw us in. We’re not interested, I don’t think, in pain for the sake of pain. The moments that are most appealing in this production are those which explore the relationships between the three characters; their interactions. One of them quotes early on, ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus’, and I really wish Killology could have got to its chorus a little earlier. But it was programmed to be performed at the end of an intense week, when I was desperate for something lighter. And as much as I try, it’s really tricky to fight against my body’s begging for an energy boost.

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Photo credit: Beatrice Debney