Friday, 2 June 2017
by Gary Owen
Killology intertwines three male lives and three monologues: a troubled youngster, a middle-aged man seemingly his father and an ultra successful new media entrepreneur.
On designer Gary McCann's black box set of tangled overhead wires, humps of black coils on the ground, as well as oily slicks, the spotlight at first falls in turn on each of the trio, although eventually the lives appear to tangle with each other.
This is a play with its intense focus on each of the three men which stands and falls by the performances and the three performances are gripping. Seán Gleeson's Alan, deceptively open-faced and pleasant, speaks the first words of the drama.
Siôn Daniel Young's Davey, is a boy whose relationships with his mother and a woman teacher and a dependent female pet are skewed by the real life violence where he lives. Richard Mylan is the glib businessman who has been given every opportunity in life made callous by the 1990s' games of his schooldays but seeing the potential in a video game concentrating on the process rather than the result.
The individual narrations of the characters do not slot neatly into place with each other. There are many moments which seem to stretch plausibility (although TLT may be hyper-nitpicking having covered numerous employment tribunals and inquests as a news reporter) and have no continuity.
There may be an explanation for this - the humps of black coils and broken off wires could even indicate a damaged brain or may, at a stretch, be a critique of movie and TV drama relying on editing and sensation rather than the piece being properly plotted. However this is not clear and may be an assumption on our part.
So we have a problem with the play's structure. The repetitive and open ended nature of computer games, the papering over of the film editing process, bringing in mental health problems as a framework, in our opinion, need to have, in our opinion, an acompanying dramatic argument.
Killology is directed fluently by Rachel O'Riordan and equally fluently written by Gary Owen, but if any or all of the motives for holes in the plot, almost as numerous as stars in the sky, are what we've said, it feels a bit of a cop out because the theatrical argument doesn't go anywhere. It feels too much like fragments or the template for a movie or a TV series.
To be fair, the video games' entrepreneur does give an obviously specious reason for the morality of a game involving prolonged torture and the father's discovery of a community online suddenly reverses the power dynamics. There is a potentially intriguing confusing of the legal set up in Britain and the US in the 1970s. But these elements are introduced rather than explored.
Killology is a term coined in 1996 by a former American soldier, David Grossman, who is now an author and trainer. Killology is defined on one website as focussing "on the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances (such as police and military in combat) and the factors that enable and restrain killing in these situations."
Grossman, who is in the playtext acknowledgments, seems to have had considerable success in his post-military career, lecturing to American police officers, although his theories and methodology have also attracted criticism.
Killology has the benefit of excellent performances from the cast, but maybe the mention of three scenic artists (Charlotte Neville, Phoebe Tomkin and Maren von Wachenfeldt) in the list of creatives indicate a cinematic rather than stage-geared piece. If you like this sort of thing, you're gonna love this. We found it rather stretched out to a two-act play and it's an upper range amber light.
PS TLT managed to put the wrong actor's name for video games entrepreneur Paul at first - it is very definitely Richard Mylan.