Engaging at a distance
21 April 2019
Great delivery and set, but Grace Patrick questions Killology's message
Right now, I feel like I’m just struggling to see what it is that Killology brings to the conversation surrounding violent video games. It seems to take a form which is closer to a condensed and intensified version of the Do Video Games Make People Violent debate. In part that comes down to the format: by isolating the characters their separate pools of light, it immediately takes on the atmosphere of some kind of a talk show or court case. It spends so much time weighing up Causes and Effects and Consequences without saying anything that feels like a side of the conversation. Of course, there’s no rule that you shouldn’t say anything on stage that’s been said before, but it does mean that it’s difficult to draw anything unique from the play.
I’m starting to think that this says something really worrying about me, but during this entire play about incredibly extreme acts of violence I can pin down exactly one moment which shocked me, and one which I felt uncomfortable during. I don’t think that there would be anything to gain from trying to remove the distance that we’re allowed to keep, but I do think that if it’s going to spend so much time walking just along the edge of directly exposing us to it, there could be more to show for that. I spent a fair portion of the play engaged by the performers, but not able to take much from their words.
By extending a relatively cut and dry debate (yes, video games have the potential to inspire violence and yes, creators therefore probably have a degree of responsibility) into more than two hours of stage time, there is inevitable filler around it, some of which was pretty interesting. Killology could certainly focus a lot more on privilege and the hypothetical. For its millionaire creator, tucked away in his metaphorical ivory tower, the violence that his creation inflicts on the world doesn’t have to feel real. It’s ok for him to not look at its consequences, because they may as well play out on a different planet.
At risk of sounding unbelievably callous, I actually think that this play gets too tied down in highly specific familial relationships rather than the wider thematic ideas. There are layers and layers of subplots and sidelines, many of which seem to extend the running time without actually honing in on what it wants to talk about. A lot of the monologue sections were great in delivery, but less compelling in what they’re actually saying.
I loved the heaping, underlit debris of the set, which could definitely be taken advantage of much more than it was. I found it interesting that the whole premise of the play is about the knock on effects of watching acts of violence, and we’re sitting there more or less watching acts of violence. What does that make us? Where do we fit into it?
In terms of both content and conception, Killology seems like it could hone in much further on what it’s trying to achieve, rather than dedicating time to so many tangents.
Photo credit: Beatrice Debney