Killing Other People
Corpus Playroom, 9.30pm, until Sat 26th January
As you stumble across the set to your seats in the Corpus Playroom, take a good look at the set, as it's the best bit of this production. Excellent use has been made of the intimate stage, and the clutter of books and boxes and the tattered sheets on the walls and ceiling give a suitably claustrophobic feeling. However, the script is overly moralistic, didactic, pretentious and, as I heard one audience member remark as we walked back out into the cold, "potentially offensive".
On the programme its author Michael Campbell writes that "it's a terrible fault to label perpetrators of awful atrocities monsters or inhuman" and that he hopes his play will "make you think". It certainly does make you think. It makes you think that this play could be construed as justifying ghastly acts of humanity, or that it invites the audience to sympathise with the orchestrators of the Holocaust. The "potentially offensive" nature of this play overshadows whatever unbearable point Campbell is belabouring about the ‘humanity' of murderers.
Henry St Leger-Davey spends the first fifteen minutes ambling about the stage gesticulating frenetically and pointlessly and his only variation in voice seemed to be being silent. Indeed, there are some awkwardly long and unbearable pauses in this production. Director Fergus Blair seems to have forced pointless pauses and smirking stares on his cast at every available opportunity. St Leger-Davey and the pantomimic Ryan Howard are saved by Kim Jarvis, who plays the concerned secretary Miss Pennyfeather. Her performance is flawless and believable. George Longworth deserved so much more than the 4 minutes he was given on stage as the accountant Mr Helter. Longworth's short biography on the programme makes it clear this lad is one to watch in the world of Cambridge Drama- he is good and I expect his name will appear on many ADC posters in the future.
This performance includes some sporadic and gratuitous use of sound effects, which juxtapose with what little action there is. Just as you think you might be about to witness some actual acting, you are blasted with the sound of pages being turned or of someone panting.
This play is puzzling, badly written and indeed "potentially offensive". It is certainly pretentious. There is a sycophantic and tedious soliloquy on the conditions of existence about every five minutes and every ten minutes a character asks another to posit a counterfactual world or gushes that "art and suffering are closer than you think". Unfortunately, some good performances could not redeem this over-ambitious attempt to address themes that need to be handled with far more caution.