21 April 2019
A valuable exploration of the intricacies of pain, says Nathan Dunn
Killology does a good job of convincing us we are watching a play about violence. In many ways we are, but upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that the piece is (more specifically) emotionally and psychologically anchored by our relationships with pain.
Paul battles with his sadistically flippant philosophies derived from a lifetime of empty relationships with those closest to him. Davey develops a complex comparable with the effects of Stockholm syndrome, as his moral sensibilities are deranged by the permeating violence in his life. Alan interrogates conflict of the head and heart, leaning the innateness of protecting life against the equally as instinctive desire to kill that is impassioned by ferociously primitive emotion. Violence is perused by its victims, and through the suffering we are invited to examine pain as both cause and effect. These relationships are explored with great intensity (despite my reservations to use this word to describe this show, as it’s so easy to do so) and there is a depth in the way they articulate these synergies. Jack Firoozan’s portrayal as Davey is notable for perfectly presenting an active yet helpless youth-in-revolt. His efforts to break through the glass ceiling of victimised and mistreated youth are ferociously futile, with Firoozan clambering across the walls and ceiling of his character’s boundaries, appropriately never finding his way out of the frame.
Elliot Ancona’s direction, married with Tristan Ashley’s technical direction are also worth noting. Ancona’s vision is concise and the handling of the play’s progression (whilst not perfect) remains praiseworthy. The sound design is deliciously dark. The harsh swiftness of the lighting, though unsurprisingly engaging, is refreshingly effective in this context. Less effective, perhaps, were decisions to shower the audience in light – the statement of this rendered unclear due to the timing. Paul’s celestial commentary doesn’t align with our role in this space. Though bold and un-disastrous, once an audience is made aware of their place in a theatre an objectively understandable reason for this is often required – but I feel the content provided at the time of reflection didn’t offer enough when associated with the bigger picture. Little was taken away from such incitingly provocative self-awareness.
Equally as problematic is the script’s length. An already demanding premise with an already demanding presentation, Gary Owen’s text meanders for over two hours. I’m hesitant to suggest the direction struggled to sustain total engagement, as there were moments I felt totally immersed in the piece. I’m more comfortable noting that the notion of Killology being enduringly challenging and unresolved is a valid one, and one that both Owen and Fourth Wall Theatre played their part in.
The play’s place in the revolving discourse of violence in video games is somewhat unconvincing. Real events have already evoked discussion from the evil acts that some argue to be inspired by video games. The tragic murder of Stefan Pakeerah, which brought Rockstar games under fire for the supposed role that their game Manhunt played in the violent murder of the 14-year-old, was over 15 years ago. The game that the play is eponymously titled after bears striking similarities to Rockstar’s survival horror. But this, the fifteenth anniversary of the tragedy and the coincidence of the aforementioned incident taking place in Leicestershire are not enough to give Killology a cultural significance at this year’s festival or beyond, if this production is anything to go by.
That’s not to dismiss its value as an analysis of our relationships to pain, both internal and external. It navigates an almost misanthropic narrative with some intricacy, and in this way the play quickly becomes more about the gaps in between the characters on stage than the spotlights they occupy. It becomes about the parts of the characters that are missing, not what they monologue about. It finds its place here for me.
Photo credit: Beatrice Debney