Roadkill Confidential

17 Nov

Cruelty’s a funny thing.

The great liberal project of the last 300 years has been to try to diminish it. And we’re making ground. For example, fewer children die in coalmines now, or at least in the nicer parts of the world.

But we’ve still got a way to go. And, like all political action, the job will never be done. We make the world every day.

“So, can Art help?” That’s what Roadkill Confidential by Sheila Callaghan got me thinking about. It’s a very clever, very funny black comedy presented with appropriate mischievous joy by Michael Dean of Lies, Lies and Propaganda.

Trevor (a very watchable, provoking bully played by Alison Bennett) is creating her new art installation. Made from roadkill, it will highlight the world’s brutality. But it’s not just small furry animals that keep dying, and so a government agent begins an undercover surveillance mission. Played with hilarious hyperbolic seriousness by Michael Drysdale, the agent’s a very amusing addition to crime fiction’s growing number of unreliable narrators: characters supposedly driven by morality, but whose sense of right and wrong is clearly wrong. “I’m a patriot”. Enough said.

Roadkill - 8

Photo by Emily Elise

As the agent attempts to solve the mystery, he monitors all the people in Trevor’s life. There’s William, her husband, an art critic for whom theory has replaced thought (played with appropriate soft-speaking pomposity by Jasper Garner Gore.) There’s her fame-obsessed teenage stepson, Randy (played explosively by Nathaniel Scotcher), perhaps a sharp pen-portrait of an entire generation. And there’s the bubbly, bumbling, socially awkward neighbor, Melanie (a comic gem created by Sinead Curry.) In this world, all of the characters are parasites who feed off Trevor, the artist. Like I said, it’s a comedy.

bAKEHOUSE’s new Kings Cross Theatre is a great place for performers to play, and set designer Catherine Steele keeps it simple and functional. The main feature is a large lit frame. It represents a TV screen offering daily horrors. It represents the screen of the agent’s hidden surveillance device. But it also evokes a picture frame. Perhaps surveillance and Art are close cousins? After all, watching and representing are both oddly passive, even creepy, actions. In a neat trick, Callaghan has Trevor realize she’s being watched. The result: she performs for the camera. This is not artist as great soul.

The question Callaghan’s play throws up for me is whether the artistic representation of cruelty and suffering awakens us or does it merely numb us? If we do build the world every day, how much do we need to look backwards?

Veronica Kaye

Roadkill Confidential by Sheila Callaghan

Kings Cross Theatre til 28 Nov

Info and tix here


One Response to “Roadkill Confidential”

  1. Jonathan Maddox November 17, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    “The world is not falling apart. The kinds of violence to which most people are vulnerable … have been in steady decline in most of the world. … Why is the world always “more dangerous than it has ever been”, even as a greater and greater majority of humanity lives in peace and dies of old age?” — Steven Pinker

    “There can be no acceptable future without an honest analysis of the past.” — Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

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