Ink and Curtains
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Although revenge is a common theme in entertainment, writers seem to take a judgemental attitude towards the subject. Convention requires those taking revenge be destroyed or debased by their actions, On the other hand, Closure, written by Faye Draper, examines revenge as a life-enriching process.
Mia (author Draper) and Alex (Connor Burns) on the verge of moving in together go for dinner with Laura (Nina Holland-Smith), one of Mia’s workmates. However, the evening takes a strange turn with Alex feigning illness to avoid eating or drinking and trying to leave early. Alex and Laura, it turns out, have met before and Laura feels a need for restorative justice.
Director Maz Hedgehog does not commit to a consistent tone. The opening is light, almost comedic with one character apparently oblivious to the fact the other two are engaging in a cat-and-mouse verbal interchange. This makes the slide into graphic violence all the more shocking, yet it is hard to avoid the sense the director may have preferred to set the mood of a noir thriller. A melodramatic revelation is enhanced by a 'ta-dah' musical cue and Hedgehog certainly demonstrates the Hitchcockian adage it is a messy thing to kill a man. Eventually, the play settles into a dark comedy and this approach might have better suited the extreme behaviour and attitudes of the characters had it been used from the start.
There is little nuance or ambiguity in the play. Alex’s guilt is established early with no-one really believing his claim he is being stalked by Laura. Rather than demonstrate the psychological effect of coping with guilt after taking revenge, author Draper concentrates on depicting the practical aspects with unrelenting scenes of raw violence. There is little background information—it is unclear whether Laura ever reported the offence which started the process and turned to revenge as a last resort; she seems motivated by anger at Alex achieving respectability, even celebrity.
The attitude of the characters, like their behaviour, is intense. Rather than an opportunist, Alex is a calculating predator and, when trapped, seems almost proud of his actions. Laura has been warped by her past suffering and so feels her intense approach to retribution is appropriate. The attitude of the characters shapes the acting; having written the play Faye Draper steps away from the limelight spending part of the show literally gagged. Connor Burns moves from an anxious innocent to a full-on gloating psychopath, while Nina Holland-Smith’s deliberately affected arch performance moves towards one of the mythical Furies hellbent on revenge.
The guilty pleasure of revenge thrillers is the opportunity for the audience to vicariously share the desire of the protagonist for brutal justice. The graphic violence in Closure may be a challenge to this tendency—a realistic demonstration of the ruthless outcome of revenge intended to promote guilt at having such a bloodthirsty reaction. However, the extreme nature of the play has the unintentional effect of letting the audience off the hook. Rather than becoming disturbed by finding oneself relating to the characters and considering their actions reasonable, you start to smugly consider, "well, I’m not that bad".
The harrowing way in which Closure demonstrates the corrosive effect of revenge is powerful, but the impact of the play is diluted by an inconsistent tone.
Reviewer: David Cunningham