Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Theatre review: Kill Me Now

A disarmingly funny look at disability and the lives built around it at the Park Theatre, in a production that's been much-trumpeted for seeing Greg Wise return to the stage for the first time in 17 years. Coincidentally, that's the same amount of time his character in Kill Me Now has dedicated his life to a single purpose: Widower Jake published one successful novel, but has since been making ends meet teaching creative writing courses, putting most of his energies into caring for severely disabled son Joey (Oliver Gomm.) He's had a small amount of help from social services, and once a week his sister Twyla (Charlotte Harwood) takes over so he can have a night off, but he can see himself as his son's primary carer for some time to come. A spinal disease sees him prematurely aged though, and suddenly contemplating an uncertain future for both of them.

Braham Murray directs Brad Fraser's play in a simple, intimate in-the-round staging which quickly sucks you into the unorthodox family, also made up of Robyn (Anna Wilson-Jones,) the married ex-student Jake's been having an affair with on his nights off, and Rowdy (Jack McMullen,) Joey's friend with mild learning disabilities.

Apart from a couple of brief moments where it feels as if Fraser is trying to deal with slightly too many themes, Kill Me Now is a highly impressive play. Though there's no question it's powerfully dramatic, it's also unafraid to take every opportunity for humour - in fact the vast majority of the play is a pitch-black comedy. Part of what makes Gomm's performance impressive is how well his comic timing survives the character's severely impaired speech (though I imagine the production will revive the discussion over able-bodied actors playing disabled characters.)

Wise too has an impressive physical transformation to go through as well as an emotional one, but there's no weak links in the cast. Harwood captures someone with a genuinely bright and helpful nature who's pushed to breaking point, while Wilson-Jones is faced with a character who's been promised no strings, but finds herself drawn into the situation despite herself. McMullen meanwhile provides blunt humour even in the play's darkest moments.

The play is particularly unabashed about tackling the subject of disabled people's sexuality, which a lot of people would shy away from - from the opening scene of Jake bathing his son and aFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!from Gomm, the fact that Joey is a teenager with urges that aren't as easy to satisfy as for most people is a major part of the story, and a significant theme of his attempts at independence. Kill Me Now is very moving but it's also so consistently funny it's never in much danger of becoming mawkish.

Kill Me Now by Brad Fraser is booking until the 29th of March at Park Theatre 200.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes straight through.

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