When Gary Owen and Rachel O’Riordan collaborate, something magical happens. They did it with Iphigenia in Splott, and now they’ve done it again with Killology. The premise is exploring the effect of a “new gaming experience [in which] players are rewarded for torturing victims, scoring points for creativity”, but this play is about much more than that. Owen and O’Riordan don’t just create a piece of art, stunning in its brutality and poeticism, but a condemnatory statement on the inequalities and injustices that still exist in society, and they certainly aren’t concerned with pussyfooting around controversy or causing offence.
“The establishment always forecasts disaster to defend its privilege. Free the slaves? Waah, the economy will collapse. Economy’s still going. Votes for women? But they’ll vote – for women! Well, evidently they don’t. Let the gays marry? – God will smite us down! And yet – all this wedded bumsex, and unsmited we remain.”
There are no throwaway lines in Owen’s script; every part works harmoniously to build towards a devastating climax, with all aspects of the production colluding to create an unrelenting uneasiness. Simon Slater’s chilling musical compositions perfectly complement Kevin Treacy’s moments of utter darkness and sudden bursts of blinding light, which have the entire audience jumping out of their skin on more than one occasion. This pervading tension underpins the piece, keeping the audience balanced on a razor sharp edge.
The humour is plentiful yet dark, no element of light-heartedness to be found, and it’s not unusual to find yourself laughing one moment, only to be wrenched into horror the next. We are accosted for two hours by the harsh, uncompromising world within Killology, broken only by a short interval three quarters of the way through, which sadly serves to lessen the momentum which has been rapidly building throughout the show. Although quickly regained by the cast, it is an unnecessary interruption, easily omitted from further productions.
A tightly constructed script is upstaged only by the phenomenal talent of the actors who breathe life into it. Richard Mylan has the arrogant entitlement of the rich, as multi-millionaire Killology creator Paul, yet couples it with a flamboyancy and killer delivery of his lines, to produce a wholly enjoyable character. On the other end of the spectrum, Seán Gleeson has a quiet, desperate intensity in his role as Alan, his Celtic tones lending a lyricism to an exclusively bleak tale. Both are exceptional, yet it as Sion Daniel Young who truly enthrals. He has a staggering depth of emotion and magnetising charisma, even as “vicious little shit” Davey.
All three members of the cast have an immense and distinctly unique stage presence, which they retain even whilst standing motionless on the stage, as each actor performs their part. Such presence has the potential to prove a distraction, and it is only the dual ability each actor also possesses, to instantly command back the audience’s full attention, that allows this set-up to work. The three rarely interact, Owen’s script seamlessly switching trajectories as we flit between what is essentially three monologues, although once their paths begin to converge, they do so in spectacular fashion.
Owen and O’Riordan have a knack for creating characters that haunt you, and this is no exception. Iphigenia in Splott found huge success after its premier at Sherman Theatre last year, and I have no doubt Killology will be following in its footsteps.
(Image credit: Mark Douet)