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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
THE RITUAL SLAUGHTER OF GORGE MASTROMAS
at the Royal Court

BROKEN COMPASS
By JOHN NATHAN

  Ph: Manuel Harlan

Vicky Featherstone kicks off her regime at the Royal Court as artistic director with an entertaining play by Dennis Kelly (who adapted Roald Dahl's book for the hit musical Mathilda) that purports to reveal the true nature of the world. “Existence is not what you think it is,” a hard-nosed businesswoman tells our eponymous hero. “It is not fair. It is not kind. It is not just.”

This is the latest in a series of crucial moments in Gorge's life. The choices he made previously ended up in a life of mediocrity. Will he again choose the self-defeating but moral option by refusing to help the businesswoman buy, at a knockdown price, the company that his boss built from scratch? Or will he stay loyal to his employer? The kicker here is that while Kelly's play ultimately seems to suggest that the moral decision is the correct path, there wouldn't have been a story worth telling had Gorge heeded his conscience. And who wants to live the kind of life that doesn't amount to a story worth telling?

This one begins as a lecture for which Featherstone has her cast of seven sitting in line telling us about Gorge's formative experiences. He was a very average boy, we are told, and an equally average man. Having been regaled with details of Gorge's schoolboy friendships and betrayals, and the subsequent squandered opportunities in love, the play at last breaks away from its Brechtian beginning, which is to say the actors at last inhabit the characters in the story. Is this a subtle connection between the play's seemingly anti-capitalist stance and Brecht's Marxist ideology? Not that it much matters. What counts is that we now see that Gorge's progress from nobody to somebody depends on his having a moral compass that doesn't exactly point north.

The gangly Tom Brooke, all legs and elbows, beautifully captures Gorge's transition from painful gaucheness to ruthless confidence. But this show's ambition is to be found much more in its unconventional structure and Featherstone's direction than the promised profundity of the play's insights.

A story in which the world is ruled by unfair people is fair enough. And it is undeniably illuminating to be shown how such a person develops. But without giving too much away, to suggest that it is the meek who live happily on this Earth (even if they don't inherit it), when most of the evening has been spent presenting evidence to the contrary, rather undermines the point of the previous, although admittedly entertaining, two hours. It also feels as if Kelly, an interesting writer whose previous plays have uncompromisingly tapped into the darker excess of human nature, suddenly lost his bottle.

 


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