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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
VIOLENCE AND SON
at Royal Court Theatre

RAW EMOTIONS
By CLIVE HIRSCHHORN

  David Moorst and Jason Hughes/ Ph: Helen Maybanks

Gary Owen’s Violence and Son, the best new British play I’ve seen since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, is a richly complex black comedy embracing sex, alcohol, violence, machismo, love, hate, loss and many of the other raw emotions the flesh is heir to. It all comes together in a stunning climax that tantalisingly asks more questions than it answers.
 
Set in a small town in the Welsh Valleys, it gives centre stage to a geekish 17-year-old called Liam, who, following the death of his adored mother, has recently moved in with Rick, his foul-mouthed, abusive, lager-swilling father. Abandoned at birth, Liam has nothing in common with his biological dad. Nicknamed Vile (for Violence), Rick is a feckless, chauvinistic pig who has had at least one drink every day of his life since he was 14 and whose seemingly masochistic girlfriend Suze provides him with unlimited sex rather than love.
 
Liam, on the other hand, is a highly intelligent, sensitive virgin obsessed with Dr. Who and provokes scorn by deliberately dressing up, a la Matt Smith, in a bowtie and a fez. Though he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he’s hoping that the platonic friendship he enjoys with the a not-so-innocent Jen, a teenager currently involved with her school’s local rugby captain, will develop into a romance.
 
The play begins innocuously enough with Liam and Jen (dressed as Amy Pond in tight police gear) returning home after attending a Dr. Who conference. In typical TV sitcom fashion, a flirtatious element enters the proceedings as Liam hopefully, albeit tentatively, attempts to up the ante relationship-wise.
 
Enter Rick, who instantly becomes the victim of his son’s malice and provocation, illustrating the chasm that exists between them in terms of their education and personalities. Though the atmosphere remains edgy, the banter between father and son is entertaining enough, especially when Rick offers the teenage virgin the benefit of his experience where the opposite sex in general – and how to pull them in particular – is concerned.
 
It’s in the darkly brooding second half that this excellent play reaches its dramatic stride, when, among other issues, the advise Rick gives his troubled, emotionally tortured son, raises uncomfortable issues and sends you home with the impact of a punch to the gut.
 
Owen’s dialogue, sense of structure and vibrant characterisations allow an exemplary cast to shine in roles they nail with perfect precision. David Moorst’s confused, complex Liam is both hilarious and heartbreaking and the centrifugal force of the play. As his stereotypically macho father, Jason Hughes manages to be much more than just a clichéd brute, Siwan Morris, as his girlfriend Suze, somehow finds a way of bringing a sense of humanity to the play’s least well-developed role. And as the catalyst Jen, Morfydd Clark is suitably sexy and intriguingly ambiguous as a teenager as confused in her own way as Liam is in his.
 
The play, which is presented by the Royal Court, is impeccably directed by Hamish Pirie

 


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