Boy it’s hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum. So spake Monty Python’s Bruce. But so would spake all Londoners and indeed most Brits just now.
What do you do if you are expiring through heat? You go and sit in an old unairconditioned theatre for 2 and a bit hours to watch a revival of an early 1990s play that deals with the weirdest lowest denominators of society intent on destroying each other.
Killer Joe centres on a trailer-living dysfunctional family of father, step wife, son and daughter. The son is in trouble in debt to some drug dealers and needs cash. He learns his mother – never seen, much hated – has a life policy with the beneficiary the daughter. With the father’s connivance the son plans to contract out her death through the agency of a cop and part time assassin. Since he has no money to pay the fee upfront he offers his sister as a retainer to the hitman.
Enough of a spoiler. Dripping sweat and trying to force ice cubes into the water bottle I brought, I can’t say I was particularly engaged in the production. The star name was Orlando Bloom whose performance was fine but whose buttocks were more memorably displayed than any acting talent he possesses.
The plot wasn’t especially believable, the suggestion it was ‘darkly comic’ was probably 50% correct and the themes just uncomfortable, especially the grim exploitation of the women. The acting was fair. The portrayal of the son had what might be described as a manic vigour but was frankly bizarrely irritating. He dies. Probably the only time he was still throughout.
But I enjoyed myself. For several reasons.
The couple in front arrived, like us, quite early. They must have stood to let people past about 27 times. Some definitely came back for seconds. After the first ten they began to bow. Five ups later and they were exhibiting all the world-weariness of a royal meet and greet line By the time the last apologetic couple slid past they were almost hysterical. ‘It’s like doing a gym session’ someone said. It certainly met the darkly comic criterion that the blurb promised.
I was still forcing ice cubes inside the water bottle – begged from the bar – when the interval ended. As the lights dimmed the last cube shattered and slivers of ice sprayed forward. I detected a squeal somewhere to the right. Not exactly of delight but not horror either. I hope it was welcomed at least in retrospect.
The play meandered to its inevitably violent if ultimately desultory conclusion. A lot of the audience stood to applaud. It really didn’t justify such enthusiasm but perhaps they were desperate to unstick themselves from the upholstery, or ready themselves for a quick exit in the hope the baked pavements might be a degree or two cooler.
I sat, pondering. Why did Mr Bloom choose this as a vehicle for a west end return. Where had the ice gone? Why are plays that are described as darkly comic or blackly humorous, generally lacking in any comedy or laughs? And what possessed the audience to give a standing ovation to this particular production?
Maybe it was the buttocks. Apparently they exuded star quality.
Would I recommend you spending some of your hard earned on this piece of belief-suspension?
I expect you can work that out.