Dying City

Tue 13th – Sat 17th October 2015

reviews

Samuel McKenzie

at 01:02 on 14th Oct 2015

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Kelly - a therapist grieving over the suspicious death of her husband, Craig, in Iraq a year ago - is surprised by an unexpected visit from Peter, his brother. Starting off with small talk, the conversation quickly progresses as it is revealed that the war affected Craig in more profound ways than previously realized.

Do not be misled, ‘Dying City’ is not a political play concerning the Iraq war, rather a psychological drama that, realized superbly by Fletcher and her cast, explores the deep psychological impact of war on all those involved. Peter describes Craig as able to “find something deeper and truer than all the surface stuff, God and politics and all that”, and so too does this production. The play’s aim of penetrating through “the surface stuff” is represented by the occupations of the three characters involved: a therapist (Kelly), an actor (Peter), and a soldier/aspiring teacher (Craig). Just as these characters work on unearthing, mimicking, and helping form others’ psyches in their daily lives, throughout the play they discover more about the dark things that lie within themselves – and perhaps so do we.

While the themes of the play may be subtle, the actors in ‘Dying City’ perform with an intensity fitting their respective roles. Matt Bradley (Peter/Craig) rises successfully to the challenge of representing the distinct relationships his two characters have with Kelly. Before either actor speaks, the dynamic between the two is noticeably transformed as Bradley makes the transition from brother-in-law to husband. However, understandably, Bradley seems more comfortable and believable when playing Peter, the actor, than he is in the role of Craig, the soldier. Helena Blair (Kelly) sets a rather demure tone with her character from the onset – staring mindlessly at a television set as the audience enters.

The costumes, staging and lighting of the production are minimalistic yet effective. White walls, floor and sofa (the only piece of furniture on stage) all keep the focus centrally on the three characters. The lighting is similarly simplistic, two large lamps either side of the sofa (operated by the actors) keep the set very much grounded in reality. Through the simple, realistic set we are reminded that, although the play may be fictional, the situation it represents is most definitely not.

Altogether, ‘Dying City’ is an exceptional production. At times the emotion can be obscured by the forced American accents (in my opinion unnecessary) and the narrative is sometimes upset by the rapid unexpected flashbacks which can be confusing at times. However, as a whole, this production of Shinn’s text is both intellectually challenging and (most importantly) enjoyable.

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