Directed by Lila Whelan
Cons: Some of the delivery could be tightened and the lighting might benefit from some more subtlety, but these are minor criticisms in a very solid production.
|Courtesy of Sprocket Theatre|
The murderers are unlikely comrades: Steven (Matthew Darcy) is a nervy, geeky but decent chap, Mel (Ruth McMeel) is neurotic and volatile and Jay (Cameron Harle) is a suave, charming narcissist – somewhere between Patrick Bateman and Vincent from Collateral. Despite this seemingly dysfunctional concoction, the three have enjoyed five years of regular meetings and (insofar as it is possible for homicidal maniacs), friendship. That is, until Steven brings his girlfriend.
Teresa (Keira Duffy), clad in white and delightfully innocent, has been told by Steven that these meetings are a kind of Assassins Anonymous for serial killers who fancy a bit of cold turkey. As she sits, earnestly listening to the three ‘confess’, it becomes apparent that Steven hasn’t been entirely straight with any of them. Nor, for that matter, have Jay and Mel. As the play unfolds, each of the characters (including the anxious but surprisingly calculating Teresa), reveals their dark secret (aside from the obvious, of course). This play really hinges on the characters’ inability to keep secrets. A valuable lesson to be learnt there.
Black comedy is a tricky genre to get right. Too light and it becomes crass, too serious and it risks being a little sick. Thankfully, Lila Whelan strikes the balance well. The script is sharply-written and has enough subtlety to raise sardonic laughter as well as genuine chuckles. The simplicity of the concept means that it has to be so.
A playwright, of course, is nothing without a cast, and Whelan has assembled a very strong one for The Rules. With no weak links and very good chemistry, the protagonists do what is so important in black comedy – they make it all seem so normal. After all, what could be more natural than meeting up with a couple of friends, having a couple of beers and chewing the fat? Despite the fact that Harle’s irresistibly smarmy and arrogant attitude is entirely at odds with Darcy’s jitters and McMeel’s anger, they are not stereotypes or caricatures. To all intents and purposes, they are all like people we know (rather a disturbing thought).
The Rules played at The Old Red Lion for one night only and the audience was implored to support it so that it might be produced as a full-length piece. Judging by the cheers and shrieks as the cast took their bows, I don’t think support will be in short supply. I suggest that a keen eye is kept on this play, the writer and the cast and I, for one, look forward to seeing them all again.
The Rules was on for one night only at The Old Red Lion Theatre on 3rd June 2013.