Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Delicacy by Julian Hobba, Feb 1, 2006

Delicacy  by Julian Hobba 
 Trades Hall, Carlton, until  Feb 4, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 1, 2006

Delicacy, written by Julian Hobba, is a compelling piece of theatre for all sorts of reasons, including the performances, direction, writing and design.

However, it is the subject matter that makes it a peculiar and disturbing experience. This two-hander is based on the true story of a German man who wanted to eat another man and found a willing victim on the internet.

One would expect the cannibal to be Hannibal Lector come to life but what makes the play even more bizarre is the fact that Denny (Luke Mullins) is a passive, weak recluse and his victim, Neil (Paul Denny), is a brute.

Hodda cunningly constructs the story and dialogue so that the world of these two men seems almost banal in its domesticity prior to the moment that blood starts to run.

For most of this short play, we watch the submissive Denny preparing his mother’s special recipe as a final dinner for his belligerent companion, Neil, who sits at the dinner table slavering over internet pornography.

Their actual purpose is veiled until quite late in the play and we could be watching two dysfunctional friends in a typical evening at home. They discuss work, Denny’s late mother, Neil’s wife, the internet. There are only cryptic references to their cannibalistic pact.

Much of their interaction is funny. If one did not know the true story, or anticipate the horror, this could be a light comedy. But the atmosphere turns on a sixpence when Denny, sick of Neil’s delaying tactics, demands Neil leave which, in turn, compels Neil to raise the stakes and bring forward their bloody deadline.

Mullins is rivetting as the subservient Denny. He plays him with a dainty physicality and effete subservience, pacing like a silent servant around his kitchen. As Neil, Paul Denny manages to combine a brutish power with a charming and sensual physicality.

Hodda makes these men real and believable. We have some small insight into their fractured pasts, their daily worlds, disturbed psyches and appalling obsessions.

Director, Wesley Enoch, keeps the pace steady and the mood light until the dreadful turning point. Anna Cordingley’s design provides the ordinariness of a well-equipped kitchen but we are aware of the knives and iron pots that await their intended use.

Delicacy is a very clever play. If you are squeamish about blood, shut your eyes here and there.

By Kate Herbert

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