Roberto Zucco

7 Oct

With my no doubt frustrating tendency to write philosophy instead of theatre criticism, it might be expected I’d take this play about a serial killer and use it as a launch pad to discuss that old chestnut – “the nature of evil”.

But I won’t. Instead, I’ll use it as an excuse to write about conventionality.

Zucco’s violence, and the responses to it, are symbolic. This is not a blood thirsty play. It’s an amusing and engaging exploration of rebellion.

It begins with the murderer escaping a supposedly inescapable prison. The prison guards are conventional, in the sense they don’t see it coming, and conventional in that they’re characters virtually out of commedia. Played with a wonderful sense of fun by Neil Modra and Sam Dugmore, they return later in the proceedings as gloriously keystone-like cops.

Zucco, played with marvelous energy by Tim Cole, baffles those around him because he is so unexpected. We follow his extraordinary journey.

Photography by Katy Green Loughrey

Photography by Katy Green Loughrey

He has a whirlwind romance with a young girl. Played with a fascinating balance between naivety and dissent by Gemma Scoble, she longs to escape the expectations placed upon her by her family. Their only concern is that she’s marriageable material and can follow the conventional path.

In a powerfully tense scene, Zucco talks to an old gentleman who is lost in the subway. He’s taken a wrong turn, and is confused and vulnerable. Adrian Barnes plays this brilliantly, capturing the deep doubt of one who suddenly finds the world larger than he had ever imagined.

Later, Zucco kidnaps an “elegant lady”. She is more than willing. This is her chance to escape from her stultifying middle class world. Kirsty Jordan, harmonizing humour and dignity, creates a character whose authority and strength drive her to challenge the very milieu that originally empowered her.

Director Anna Jahjah has drawn from her entire cast engaging performances. I particularily loved Lyn Pierse’s joyfully larger than life characterisations.

Martin Crimp’s translation of Bernard-Marie Koltes’ play is rich and intriguing. There are some delectable speeches.

This play is part of a European tradition. Think Jean Genet. Criminality as rebellion.

It’s a risky symbol. And no justification is offered for Zucco.

It just throws it out there the idea that conventionality is problematic. It offers no alternative.

But what alternative can there be?

To live Life fully – and this play reminds us Life can be over much sooner than we imagined! – to live Life fully, we cannot pretend to know it in advance.

Veronica Kaye


Roberto Zucco 

Old Fitzroy until 19 Oct



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