Friday, 8 July 2016

Courage To Kill, July 6, 2016 ***

By Lars Norén, English translation by Marita Lindholm Gochman
Produced by Public Front, presented La Mama Theatre
La Mama, until July 17, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Review also published in print (& possibly online) at Herald Sun Arts on Friday, July 8, 2016

 Stephen House & Luke Mulquiney 
 Forced together in an icy apartment on a bleak and rainy day in Sweden, a father and son play out their frighteningly dysfunctional relationship to its dramatic conclusion.

Lars Norén’s 1980s play, Courage To Kill, is brutally realistic and Richard Murphet, director of this production, forces Norén’s embittered characters into dangerously close proximity in the tiny, claustrophobic space of La Mama.

The only brief relief from the fraught interaction between Erik (Luke Mulquiney) and his father, Ernst (Stephen House), is the arrival of Erik’s casual girlfriend, Radka (Tamara Natt), in the second half of this long play.

The old and ailing father has arrived unannounced at his son’s uncomfortable flat and expects his son to care for him, but Erik is not complying.

Norén’s script hints at unpleasant secrets in the family’s history and Murphet focuses on the slow, brooding intensity between father and son as they peel away the layers of the past and strip each other of any pretence.

Mulquiney is rigid with repressed rage as the depressed and untrusting son, expressing Erik’s secretiveness and despair through his obsessive cutting of magazine clippings and his searching interrogation of his father.

However, Mulquiney’s clenched fists and fixed grimace reflect the actor’s own tension more than that of the character.

House prowls the small space as the demanding and clingy father, pursuing the son like a hunter and oppressing him with his constant presence.

But House struggles to make the drunk, promiscuous father credible in a performance that is unfocussed and lacks clear and sustained connection to the text or the other characters.

The discomfort of the actors is palpable when House and Mulquiney lose their place in the script early in the play.

The second half is more powerful, cohesive and intense as it careers to its inevitable conclusion.

Natt’s Radka interrupts the father and son’s relentless arguing and barely masked anger with a breezy, youthful energy and sassiness, although it is hard to understand why Radka would stay in such a tense situation for so long.

Despite the flaws in performances, Norén’s play is a challenging exploration of family dysfunction and tragedy.

By Kate Herbert

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