Ballistic

Alex Packer
Mini Mall Theatre
King’s Head Theatre

Mark Conway Credit: Tom Packer
Mark Conway Credit: Tom Packer
Mark Conway Credit: Tom Packer

Every so often, a violent act grabs media attention. There are horrific details of the event but rarely anything about its cause.

Ballistic gives us the monologue of a lone male from the age of twelve to his university days in the UK in which there are many clues as to the reason for his violence.

It is a gripping story told with economy by Mark Conway as the unnamed youth against a backdrop of a wall of large, cold squares. Yet the story is difficult to believe and not very different from the pattern promoted by Hollywood thrillers and the tabloid press.

There is the divorce of his parents that might have generated a sense of isolation. Sexuality posed difficulties with him unsuccessfully masturbating. He felt betrayed and further isolated when his friend Anthony had a sexual encounter before he did. Then there is the increased time playing games online which perhaps fuelled wild ideas.

Although his reactions to these events suggest a boy untypically young for his age, they are not the trigger for the crime he is to commit.

That comes at university when he meets Rebecca at a party and takes her back to his flat where his flatmates think it funny to film them having sex and posting the video online. The embarrassment and anger he feels about this intensifies his isolation and finally his plan to take terrible revenge.

But it is hard to believe the way the flatmates are treated.

This university must operate in a very unusual part of the UK. They are simply suspended for fourteen days. Despite committing a very public criminal offence, they are not prosecuted. Clearly it is also a police free zone.

They are not expelled from the university, nor are they thrown out of the shared accommodation. That is useful for the man with no name. It gives him very easy access to them one very dark night. And why stop there when there is a whole university of people to dispose of, even if it risks him being suspended in this new, very liberal UK?

The monologue will entertain without being very believable. The depiction of the deranged loner is a suspect B movie cliché. The dash for weirdness and violence with a touch of melodrama is worthy of the worst instincts of the tabloids.

We need to understand the human ballistics of violent acts and that’s not something this play can help us with.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna