Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, Royal Court


For a while watching Dennis Kelly's The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, the first play of Vicky Featherstone's tenure as the director of the Royal Court theatre, I wondered whether we might get an ultra-reductive seven-hander storytelling of a show. The cast were sat in a line taking paragraphs of exposition in turn - and, as it turned out, more or less in character - while the cosmic backdrop curtain lit up the proximate weave of characters as they popped up in the story. Simple storytelling for a sizeable subject then.

Though I was prepared to go along with this, I must confess to being perfectly happy with a staged production slipping into action just as the titular character (Gorge = George) is about to have the Damascene experience that will change the course of his life, and charge the drama. Faced with a life's repetitive conundrum, whether goodness is synonymous with courage or cowardice, he capitulates to a capitalist's perfect opportunity. For me, the conundrum is bleached into insignificance as Gorge undertakes to follow his 3-rule scheme of acquisition and not least as the sequence (well-acted by Pippa Haywood) adopts the cosmic umbrella of the earlier set up, complete with dimmed lights and stopped time.

This solipsistic effect is even better used in the following scene in which a hotel-room drama is frozen to allow the rest of the cast to continue their Greek chorus role in situ. I also liked a nicely judged, unnerving fourth wall assault as the conviviality of the chorus seems to succumb to the animal antagonist instincts of the Ayn Rand-like creed in the play's blood. Unfortunately, the final scene doesn't has too much to do given the set-up, which suggests some sort of insight, or at least Houellebecq-style irony or dispassion. The future is flagged up as such (the performance uses a date that corresponds to the night we went, and I suspect that moves on night after night to make a point about its contemporary credentials).

That said it's well-played across the board. The writing and design make their point about the soulessness of capitalism and its attendant manipulativeness without tying itself to the most recent financial crisis. The issue of truth-telling only for relative moral expedience is a bit lost and the twist in the end relegated to a minor event. It's an evening of humour and strong intent though.

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