After ‘Iphigenia In Splott’ it seemed remiss not to try to get a ticket for ‘Violence and Son’, Gary Owen’s debut at The Royal Court Theatre.
It also meant the bar was set incredibly high, and trying to ignore the fantastic reviews, I attempted to keep my expectations in check.
‘Violence and Son’ is the story of 17-year old Liam, brought to South Wales from Yorkshire to stay with his less than paternal father following the death of his mum. David Moorst as Liam, sets the empathy well- completely quirky, the balance of introvert, Dr Who addict, teenager- the struggle of emotion comes to the fore, of friendship and lust for Jen, grieving for a parent, and accepting a new parental figure so different from his upbringing.
For then there is Rick, or, as introduced by Liam: “So, that’s Rick, with a silent ‘p’.”. In the theatre in the round, it feels at times you are watching a caged animal preying on the innocent, such is the aggression which is contained by Jason Hughes’ characterisation, whether portraying humour or anger there is the feeling of a massive energy which needs to be released, the delicate balance of keeping someone on the right side of sane.
And it is this defining relationship of father and son which appears to be the crux of the consideration. And in the case where the father is known locally as ‘Vile’- “Like you get called by what you do. So, Dai the Butcher, Steve the Post. And they call him – Violence.” there is the impact of how parenting allows behaviours to become a norm. And as you watch the relationship unfold, you see how the need to have the assurance of a parental figure, to gain acceptance can create the conflict when balanced with the values which Liam has developed prior to his arrival.
The catalyst for the play and the themes it explores is Jen, introduced to the audience as Amy Pond to Matt Smith’s Dr Who, Liam and Jen’s bond is based on friendship with the undercurrent of more. Jen has the assurance of a teenager, with the determination of belief, played by Morfydd Clark, the delicate balance of standing up for your beliefs and stepping sideways upon challenge is delicately portrayed. Jen provides a question mark for each of the characters, and through each exploration the audience is allowed to learn more about the circumstances which surround the person each has become.
As the play collides into the darkest circumstance, Morfydd Clark sensitively gives Jen credence of the character seem throughout, the gut wrenching confrontation, teased out by Jen in her need to confront as she herself deals with her own emotion.
And perhaps it is this, the most difficult comprehension, the female roles in Gary Owen’s script. It is easier to conclude that the relationship of Viol and Liam is a scary reality, the second generation, the learned behaviours. It is more difficult to accept the role of Suze, the reality of domestic violence, the reality of being able to write things off. Siwan Morris is awesome as Suze- with a sharp humour providing much-needed respite at times, the more difficult aspects offer conflict, more difficult to understand, as Suze questions and breaks things down, but in doing so, it is possible to see how the character is able to justify things, although ultimately there is a strength as the repercussions of the evening become known.
The humour of this play prevents it from being a truly harrowing experience, and yet it is this contrast, the laughter which soon converts to a spectator unable to draw breath which allows the play to challenge. To feel so at ease and then to feel so uncomfortable. To know that this isn’t what we want to believe, but never the less we should confront.
A second outing with a Gary Owen script has complemented the first, the timeliness of the themes, that society and its behaviours underpins so much more than the balance it appears to play in the decisions made in the UK. There continues to be the reality, of what we do not know, of what we may assume whether overly simplistic or overly complex, the reality for many is we don’t know. We haven’t asked. To move forward as a society, with empathy, or as a divided country, full of judgement, is something which feels very real.
The themes of this play, the ending, the absolute uncomfortable feeling in your stomach as to what could be. And worse, what could be perceived as acceptable.
The play has a timeliness, and if you can get a ticket, it should be seen.
Violence and Son is at The Royal Theatre Upstairs until 11 July 2015. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 0207 565 5000 and online.