Old Fitzroy, May 26, until June 23
When theatre bites down hard on a subject like this you, too, are caught in its teeth. The subject is child molestation – here a euphemism for child rape. David Holthouse knows about it. At the age of seven he was raped by the 17-year-old son of friends of his parents. Twenty-five years later he documented his plans to kill the perpetrator in a journalistic piece on which this play is based.
It could be a chasm of desolation, but Holthouse and co-playwright Markus Potter (with input from three other writers) ensure it is not. As much as Holthouse wants us to feel his emotional scarring and understand why it has such longevity, he is just as concerned with his adult dilemma over whether to seek revenge.
This is much more complex than the simple morality of “to murder, or not to murder”. Holthouse tries to divine in advance whether revenge will cleanse him of the sin of having been the victim; will negate the need to continue protecting his parents (whom he was promised would hate him if he ever told them) from knowledge of what befell their baby boy. Or whether there’s another way.
This is theatre on a knife-edge, with infinite micro-decisions by the writers and director Neil Gooding contributing to its urgency as it lifts a scab, and allows us to peer at a wound most of us could barely imagine. Any hint of artificially raising the stakes would be disastrous, and Gooding preserves a tone akin to theatre-as-documentary, without the dryness that implies.
Graeme McRae portrays Holthouse from that fateful age of seven, through cameos in other phases of his life, and into his 30s. The performance is moving, yet astutely underplayed. The tight little cast is completed by Radek Jonak as the Bogeyman, Deborah Jones and Noel Hodda as Holthouse’s parents, and Anne Tenney and Alexander Palacio as the Bogeyman’s parents, with Palacio’s an especially convincing performance, including in the secondary role of a gangster. As good as the production is, one senses it can take another step in tautness, and may well do that during the season.
You might expect such a play to chew up two hours without taking a breath, and yet, in an impressive act of concision, it lasts only 75 minutes. It will not be so quickly forgotten.