Ovalhouse and Permanent Red
Kieran Hurley’s play An Injury rages against the abuse of human rights and insists that without justice there can be no peace.
It does so in his distinctive style with interconnected stories of characters described in passionate, fast-spoken monologues. The rhythm and word repetition of the language resembles poetry, but a poetry that is also natural speech.
The approach can be exciting, unsettling and thought-provoking but it is dependent on the audience being able to stay the journey of its furious narrative.
There are a number of reasons why this is unlikely to happen with this play in its present form. It’s difficult to follow the sequence of events described and the performers add to potential confusion by constantly swapping roles.
The story centres on Joe, who operates military drones that patrol and sometimes destroy foreign targets, and Danny, who may also be a drone pilot or someone just keeping Joe company while he works.
The drone surveillance is also a metaphor for people’s passivity or complicity in terrible injustice they witness or experience.
One character sees police brutally attack some youth. He is shocked but does nothing to stop the incident. Another presses the trigger of a weapon that he feels sure has killed a small girl.
They are haunted by doubts about their behaviour and feel impelled towards other acts of violence even towards themselves.
The show is compassionate and years for a different kind of world where “an injury to one is the concern of all”, a slogan that recalls a past world of trade union rights and strength.
Unfortunately for all its good ideas and poetic language, it is hard to get a grip on what is really going on.
Are Danny and Joe really piloting drones or is this just a metaphor? Is one of them also a left wing blogger issuing dire threats to the capitalist system? Did he really deliberately walk in front of a car to try and kill himself?
The unreality of the events we hear about is compounded by a tumbling waterfall of words. Yes they are poetic but since we aren’t always sure what point they are making their artificiality can occasionally sound irritatingly pretentious rather than interesting.
When one character asks another, “what did you know about me?” the reply comes back, “demographically?”.
The word may make sense but it also makes for a very silly response.
Then there is that scene where they remember the dead by shouting out a long line of names such as “Mandela was there”, “Bin Laden was there” and so on, prompting someone sitting along from me to quip wearily loud enough for a few of us to hear “I should be there too!”
It felt like a very long play, particularly in the heat trap of that evening’s seats where I was surrounded by people desperately fanning themselves.
Kieran Hurley is a fine writer and An Injury may one day be a fine play but for the moment it is messy and very, very tiring.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna