Review: Dying City

Dying City
Image credit: Dying City

The first thing to hit you about BATS’ Dying City is the chilling blankness of it all. The white-washed stage and sheet covered furniture feels strangely clinical, even the canvases hung on the walls are eerily white, while the lamps centring in on the stage give the audience a sense of both intruding on something intimate and being intruded upon themselves. Kelly, the widowed therapist, played brilliantly and sensitively by Helena Blair, sits silent and unmoving, also clad in white, while the low murmur of the television washes over the scene like an unwelcome subconscious. The opening moments perfectly depict the echoing emptiness of depression and grief.

This makes the intrusion of the loud and theatrical identical twin brother of her dead husband all the more jarring. Peter, also in white, cuts through the scene like a knife, bringing the pain of his brother Craig’s death into light. Matt Bradley shifts seamlessly from brother to brother, conveying their distinctly different characters without a hitch; both he and Helena Blair beautifully display the complex emotions of the play without ever overacting.

While still intensely internalised and personal, American playwright Christopher Shinn somehow adds a powerfully political edge to the plot, sharply criticising the Iraq War where Craig is killed. The undercurrent of homophobia adds to the unsettling feel of the play, which is particularly poignant considering the playwright himself is gay. We watch as the passive aggression of all three characters grows to match the horror of the war but remains subtle and delicate. In the face of such a famously controversial issue, the character’s vulnerabilities as individuals are retained.

This sinister production captures the white void of grief while also bringing to the stage the unhinged nature of war, challenging the audience to see the violence inside of themselves that is brought to the battlefield.


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