Why would you want to see a play about something as repellent as torture? Because Blood explores the subject in a comical but never farcical way. And fear not, the violence occurs off-stage.
Blood, by Spanish writer Sergi Belbel, is a skilled presentation of a situation that is gruelling yet the experience of seeing the play is not gruelling, it's entertaining. Not that Blood trivialises its subject matter, far from it; it manages to make a theatrical experience accessible yet still ask the large, serious questions about being human and being a member of society. The play leads audience members to face up to any distancing that can happen within ourselves while observing characters isolated from their humanity yet who are also completely believable. No one is a monster, not even the disturbingly young dissidents who carry out the monstrous acts. Blood makes you aware of how any one of us can be adept at turning a blind eye to injustice or acting purely from intellect rather than from compassion. But the play doesn't judge. Blood is an extraordinary example of playwriting, the sort of thing which is often attempted but seldom works so well. It is classically theatrical in its structure and in this production the direction by Scott Gooding allows it to deliver on symbolic and visceral levels. There are some moments of fascinating wit, especially in the park bench scene. Most of the dialogue is clever yet not witty for the sake of it. Lesser writers rely on shock or horror or grit to stand in for depth, whereas this piece gives you an exquisitely ironic but wholly engaged perspective on a reprehensible set of crimes.
The comedy comes from the characters' recognisable self centredness. They exhibit banal, selfish, ignoble but understandable responses to crises. Only here the stakes are immense. The actors absolutely have to believe what they're up to in a play like this; fortunately this cast does. Janine Watson playing the Politician's Wife excels as the victim who refuses to be one, honestly voicing her reactions and thoughts while maintaining her dignity throughout. The other characters are not, but occasionally nearly, satirised; all are extreme in their own way. The matter of The Child being punished for the impulse to act out of emotion not principle gives real pause for thought. The scene where The Mistress confronts The Politician stays with you; surreal yet believable. In fact the production as a whole stays with you, which tells you how good it is.
Vicious Fish Theatre presents
by Sergi Belbel
Director Scott Gooding
Venue: Theatre Works | 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates: 24 June - 4 July 2010
Times: Thurs - Sat @ 8.00pm | Sun @ 5.00pm
Tickets: Preview $10.00 / Full $20.00 / Conc $15.00 (Plus Booking Fee)