At the Table
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
Marcos Barbosa's companion piece to Almost Nothing is equally unsettling. The subject of child abuse always will be and the fact that the man involved, Castro, played by the ever excellent Karl Johnson, sees himself as the victim rather than the perpetrator is shocking.
At the Table explores male relationships under stress. Twin boys of about twelve could not be more different. Inacio (Jonathan Timmins) is shy and uncertain while Bruno (Robert Timmins) is a bully. Their mother is having a nervous breakdown, which in turn puts pressure on the father.
When the action advances to Inacio's funeral twenty years later, truths flow, as two of the visitors to Castro's boys' camp explore their own guilt and responsibility for what happened there. This naturally flows into the reasons behind the sensitive Inacio's suicide.
The sad message of At the Table is that guilt is entirely subjective. In the real world, the victimised often never forgive themselves while a self-righteous child molester can persuade himself of his innocence.
Marcos Barbosa is another real discovery by the Royal Court's International programme. His spare style and insight into life's pain and guilt is both unusual and special. It will be good to see him write a full-length play.
This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version
"At the Table" plays until 28th February
Reviewer: Philip Fisher