I am confident all would agree that debbie tucker green’s new play for the Royal Court is a powerful one. The play’s force comes from the performances and its poetry. The acting and dialogue are of such a high standard you can see those reviewers’ stars mounting up before your eyes. But what feels very much an intellectual exercise doesn’t quite deliver: pointless is too strong a word to use about such a quality piece, but don’t expect anything persuasive behind this focused examination of a dilemma.
The scenario is simple yet tense: the victim of a crime gets to decide the method of executing the perpetrator. But there are no arguments about the death penalty, rather, a bureaucratic meeting with officials who obsessively follow procedures to enact the execution. Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza are well studied in these roles, dealing with the economy of the writing and creating a comedy of compromises. It’s a pity that these well-meaning characters are a little too ineffectual and ill prepared, with the “transparency” they aim for becoming one of many heavy ironies.
The struggle to vocalise trauma is painfully acknowledged; nobody has “the words, the stomach, the imagination” to empathise with the carefully undisclosed crime discussed. Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s performance as the articulate victim given a potent voice is stunning, creating a depiction of pain shocking in its distance from platitudes. tucker green’s direction is taut as a bow but the explorations of revenge, justice and the systems we rely on to deliver the law don’t satisfy. It’s a puzzle to have no real target aimed at with such skill.
Until 18 July 2015
Photo by Stephen Cummiskey