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2Graves

Paul Sellar
Andy Jordan Productions
Arts Theatre
(2006)

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'There's a poetry to justice when a wrong is avenged
Yes it's often said - among the dead -
That there is no heaven
No heaven higher than revenge'

This is the prologue to a gripping monologue presented by Jonathan Moore, whose solo performance, delivered seated on a large wooden chair (resembling the electric variety), captivates the audience's attention for 60 minutes.

The drama is embedded in metrical verse. A tale of a journey unfolds, confined to ten years from youth to manhood, hinging on events that affected our storyteller's father and, like a vortex, sucked in our protagonist.

This is a story of tender love and aspirations crushed by corrupt bookies, fixed matches and mafia gangs amongst whom our storyteller grew up and lived. A tale of a society whose members wreck each other's lives with little concern as to the consequences. It is a vicious and desperate circle which it is almost impossible break out of.

The prologue and the play's title provide the ominous backdrop to the storyteller's affectionate account of his Dad's burning ambition to win the World Championship in Darts. Even if you have never played the game and care for it even less, Moore draws you in, following the board and the players at The Crown and Anchor, 'a charmless pub'. Here the piercing darts seem to have more grace in their journey to the target-board than those engaging them.

The location is the East End of London but it could have been anywhere. The local pub is dominated by brutes and criminals, past and future convicts. Our protagonist, Dad, had a past, but is desperate to form a new future. Society and the establishment are as brutal as some of its members. Second chance is a steep uphill gradient down which one can be easily tumbled by the humiliation of events beyond an individual's control - the game is fixed and Dad is robbed of the only glory he aspired to.

Despite the fact that there is hardly any physical movement on stage apart from laconic gestures of his hands, palms and fingers, there is dramatic build-up to the point of revulsion from the actual acts of revenge carried out by our protagonist.

The climax leading to the match and the detailed description of the changing scores is absorbing. Tension, frustration and wild anger heat the air as the truth of corrupt bookies, fixed matches comes to light. We follow our protagonist in the gutters of the sordid world where violence and murder are common place.

Colin Grenfell's lighting design is exquisitely effective. Piano music, composed by Michael Nyman, is introduced at some point in the course of the monologue. It was effective up to a point. The choice of percussion or brass may have better enhanced unfolding drama.

The play concludes with a quote that can be traced to James Bond in For Your Eyes Only where Melina, the Chinese Bond-girl, says, "Before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves." Sellar's 2Graves is not a populist play and may not be a box office hit, but it is a challenging drama which should be adapted for radio and television to reach wider audience.

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson