Killology

Gary Owen

Royal Court Theatre & Sherman Theatre

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

From 25 May 2017 to 24 June 2017

Review by Philip Fisher

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Gary Owen’s latest work, co-produced with Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre, starts out as three independent monologues reminiscent of Conor MacPherson’s early work before slowly developing into something very close to the nastiest extremes that In-Yer-Face had to offer in its heyday.

Eventually, Killology, which is presented in a dank, black box space with hanging wires and little else, develops into an exploration of relationships between fathers and sons while presenting a depressing vision of contemporary society without any punches pulled.

Siôn Daniel Young is Davey, the product of a broken home and an uncaring mother. From the earliest days of childhood, he is a young tearaway, happy to take on bullies and literally careless of the consequences. He always seems likely to come to an unhappy end, showing psychopathic tendencies with little evidence of humanity except unexpected love for his mongrel dog, Maisie.

Seán Gleeson plays Alan, a generation older and a vengeful killer who could easily have been Davey’s father. Indeed, for much of the evening, it appears that this might be the case although, amid less clarity than would be ideal in the final scenes of Rachel O’Riordan’s otherwise excellent production, it appears that their stories are completely independent. In other ways too, Alan is not quite what he seems at first sight.

Finally, there is Richard Mylan’s 23-year-old Paul, a wildly successful video games entrepreneur whose relationship with his own generous, entrepreneurial father could also be described as complex at the very least. Paul’s talent is for tapping into the most sadistic human desires and converting them into video games and his own fortune.

For most of the two hours 10 minutes running time, the three men relate horrific stories that barely intersect except in their ability to shine a light on human depravity.

Davey may be a fairly nasty piece of work but, compared to the Randall brothers against whom he begins to battle, the lad could be seen as an angel. These are the kind of hooligans who not only take pleasure in inflicting harm on their competitors but will quite happily torture innocent children and animals for laughs.

Alan has a different agenda, driven by love for his own abandoned son.

In principle, Paul is a good guy, never having hurt a fly. However, in a sad comment on society today, his games lead to copycat behaviour out on the streets. This eventually brings him to a difficult meeting with bitter Alan, a man whom he has never previously met but certainly won’t foget.

While Killology can be far from comfortable viewing, it features good performances, particularly from Richard Mylan, and has the ability to make viewers think deeply about some important issues facing us all today. Pleasingly, Gary Owen manages to lighten the mood with sufficient humour to ensure that spectators can take what would otherwise be an evening packed with irredeemable violence and gloom and does at least offer some hope before the evening come to its close.