killology

‘There is an instinctive revulsion against taking a human life. And that revulsion lives in our hearts. And that revulsion is the best part of us. And that revulsion can be conquered’ 

Killology punches you in the face with every new death, every new torture method, every new possible scenario. The audience sit uncomfortably close to the stage where ghosts and men edge past each other, only occasionally illuminated by the light reflecting off their dark clothing. The whole room feels damp like if you sat in there too long your clothes and then your skin would fester and start to smell. I’m expecting a dystopian play that will really bring home the surreal and terrifying election result of the day before. That’s not really what happens. Instead, I cry because a fifteen-year-old boy steals a bike and drives in front of the wrong car.

Gary Owen said he picks at ‘mental scabs’, a phrase which I really can’t hear without my brain wanting to crawl in on itself, but it makes sense watching his new play at the Royal Court. It’s about fatherhood, boyhood, masculinity, imagination, death, grief, and the capabilities of the human race.

three characters

Alan; older, greying, Irish, mushy on the inside, a dad. Paul sleazy, not much going for him except his money, resentful, definitely not a dad. Davey child, he’s a child, he’s just a child, needed a dad, he’s a child and he’s dead. 

I want Sion Daniel Young to stay on stage the whole time. He plays Davey and when he talks to me, because god it really feels like he’s speaking to you and only you, I believe every word and I want to reach out and hug him. His elbows jut out and his lip quivers, heavy eyelids hang over staring eyeballs. He looks at me and I go cold. In the end, you find out he’s already dead and you know why it felt weird when he looked at you.

I think it’s about responsibility. Generational responsibility and parental responsibility but also about blame. Who is left alive and who is blamed and who is locked away? Just like the game, this play is a ‘deeply moral experience’. What is your stance on video game violence? Whether or not you have one, you’ll know less about your opinions but more about yourself when you leave the theatre. It’s pretty clean cut.

Right?

The scene directly before the interval, where Alan (Seán Gleeson) forces Paul (Richard Mylan) to watch a young boy tortured in an exact recreation of a level from Paul’s game, grips it’s cold hands around our neck and makes every muscle in your body quiver. You feel sickened, disgusted, angry, and yet you can’t help imagining it, can you? You can hear the sounds, the awful fucking sounds, but you don’t let that stop you imagining it. The lights flash on and I literally jump in my seat. After that, I will no longer love theatre unless it reaches down my throat and pulls my gut up and out of my mouth like that scene did.

During the interval, I hear a young girl say to her friend ‘I cried more about the dog dying than the person’.

That’s a bit fucked up. Isn’t it?

For most of the show, the three men talk about doing things, remember things, misremember things. It’s about memories and imagination so you’re not sure where or when you are most of the time. In that telling and retelling and making up there’s a comment about virtual reality gameplay. Because like Paul says, they aren’t really doing it. There’s a difference between reality and a game. There’s a difference between hearing about torture and death and actually seeing it.

Is there?

Killology makes your blood run cold like Sarah Kane makes the hair on your everywhere stand up. Gary Owen holds no prisoners and wipes the slate clean for a new age of intensely unapologetic writing. The game in Killology is the war in Blasted. You can ignore it but it will come for you.

This play is about when it comes for you.

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