Hope, Royal Court Theatre

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Local politics isn’t sexy. It’s the support crew that cleans up while the rockstars break out their set list of strained smiles and hollow promises on the next main stage. I still remember, as a child, my dad frustratedly filling us in on the council meetings he attended as a school governor; the high point, if I recall rightly, was a farcical dispute about bins.

Hope, therefore, is not particularly promising as a theatrical premise. A local Labour council struggles to make budget savings? Not exactly thrilling. But actually, Jack Thorne’s play feels like the perfect drama for the present political moment. In the context of the Royal Court’s revolution themed season, it might not be the most rousing call to arms, but it depicts the possibility for change on a level that actually feels within reach. It makes politics ordinary, turning its gaze on the crippling everyday impacts of austerity in a way that most national politicians seem incapable of imagining.

Thorne’s councillors are in an impossible position. With £64 million of savings to make by 2017, it’s a miserable matter of deciding on the marginally lesser of many evils. Should cuts be made to care for the elderly or the disabled? Where can savings be made on Sure Start Centres? As for the local library and museum – forget it.

Thankfully, though, Thorne’s play is not all hand-wringing budget meetings. At its centre is deputy council leader Mark, a tortured would-be idealist who is desperate to be a good man in dire circumstances. After his similarly tormented turn in Utopia, Paul Higgins seems made to inhabit characters crumbling under pressure, hair more dishevelled by the minute and body curling up further and further into his suit jacket. Compounding the difficulty of the cuts, Mark’s ex-wife Gina (Christine Entwisle) gets wind that her day centre for the disabled is going to be slashed and mounts a big, social media-savvy campaign, while his relationships with precociously intelligent son Jake (Tommy Knight) and fellow councillor and sometime lover Julie (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) come under increasing strain.

Like Mark, everyone on the council wants to “do the right thing” – a phrase that becomes more and more fraught as the play goes on. Never was there more proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Stella Gonet’s Hilary is cool and pragmatic, but beneath her armour she’s utterly committed to the town she serves, as is well-meaning, unassuming Lata (Nisha Nayar). At the more idealistic end of the scale are Julie – who also has to juggle the expectations of her council veteran father George (Tom Georgeson) – and recklessly principled Sarwan (Rudi Dharmalingam).

It’s the latter who acts as the catalyst for change, urging his fellow councillors to take a stand. Sometimes, though, principles come at a high price. The fate of the council serves to animate the precarious balance between what is right and what is pragmatic, highlighting the complexity of the decisions currently faced by local government. The choice seems to be a bleak one: either make devastating cuts yourself, or have others make even worse ones for you.

Thorne also turns his attention to the wider predicament of the modern Labour party and the erosion of solidarity by Thatcherite principles of individualism. In a slightly clunky but politically perceptive speech, former council leader George mourns the death of the party he has dedicated his life to and the political fervour that seems to be in retreat: “Idealism is dead. Solidarity is dead. It’s been destroyed by pragmatism and hatred and shame.” At the same time, though, there’s something freeing about this dissolution of past touchstones; “we don’t represent anything any more,” George observes, so perhaps now is the time to make bold decisions for the better.

Theatrically, Hope is not about to set pulses racing, but its plain, sober style feels just right. John Tiffany’s unshowy production contains all the scenes within Tom Scutt’s meticulously realised town hall design, its drab detail a constant reminder of the realities these characters are working within. No giant ball ponds here; this form of political rebellion is not fun (as Russell Brand famously promises) but hard and boring, as real change often tends to be. Revolution is just as likely to be a long slog as a sudden spark of action.

There is, at times, a slight tendency to use characters as mouthpieces for debate. George in particular feels a bit like the weary, battle-hardened voice of old Labour, while Mark and Hilary’s conversation about the advantages or otherwise of principles acts as something of a gloss on the council’s choice of course and its consequences. But however contrived, Hope‘s conclusion somehow, quietly yet insistently – and against all odds – engenders the sentiment of its title. Change probably will be slow and frustrating and involve a hundred painful compromises along the way, and it will probably have a lot more to do with bins and libraries and day centres than the Russell Brands of this world would have us believe, but there’s still the possibility that, if we just try, we might begin to make the world a better place.

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Mr Burns, Almeida Theatre

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Originally written for Exeunt.

Remember the one with Cape Fear? The parody of the film – the one with Robert De Niro, not the other one. There’s something about a tattoo. Maybe two tattoos? And a court case, there’s definitely a scene in a courtroom. Anyway, the Simpsons end up on a houseboat. They’re running away from something … Bart is receiving death threats, that’s it. They’re written in blood – no, tomato ketchup. Sideshow Bob is trying to kill him. Or is it Mr Burns?

This is the kind of stuttering, stumbling salvage that forms the patchwork fabric of Anne Washburn’s play, which mutates one iconic episode of The Simpsonsthrough a game of post-apocalyptic Chinese whispers. It’s cultural memory as mash-up. Gilbert and Sullivan by way of Bart and Lisa.

In the aftermath of an unspecified, civilization-splintering disaster – the hints suggest part pandemic, part nuclear catastrophe – a group of survivors are clustered around a fire. For comfort, they turn not to religion, but to pop culture. As flows and eddies of misinformation swirl around them, The Simpsonsbecomes a collective life raft. Memory is salvation.

Seven years later, as society is starting to wonkily slot itself back together, the television programmes (and commercials) of Before are big business. The characters we met in the first scene are now a makeshift theatre troupe scratching a living from the sale of nostalgia – and competition is fierce. Arguments erupt about which wine is most unchallengingly evocative (Chablis, apparently) and which pop hits to include in the ad-break music medley.

By the final act, which fast forwards another 75 years, the campfire story has gone through countless iterations and its batshit crazy telling has become a giddy whirl of cultural fragments. Director Robert Icke and designer Tom Scutt construct a teetering edifice of narrative and aesthetic bric-a-brac, from tattered scraps of Americana to oddly distorted movie allusions. Opera bleeds into Livin La Vida Loca. Eminem meets Britney. It’s blink-and-you-miss-the-reference fast, equal parts dazzling and disorienting. Where was that snippet of a melody from? Was that a nod to Peter Pan? How does the rest of that line go?

This kind of chaotic cultural bricolage will be familiar for 21st century viewers, but here it receives a crucial twist. Mr Burns is, as per its subtitle, post-electric rather than post-modern. There is no irony; this is a society earnestly retelling its founding cultural myth. And while some may shake their heads at the idea that it is The Simpsons rather than Shakespeare that survives the fall of civilization, Washburn has found a canny focus for teasing out the ways in which humans recycle and repurpose stories – a habit as old as the species. It’s just another kind of Homeric epic.

And there’s some intellectual weight behind the cultural cutting and pasting. Washburn’s imagined post-apocalypse is both a hymn to and an uncomfortable indictment of the artistic detritus that resiliently endures. Civilization, Mr Burnssuggests, is built on stories – but so is commerce and exploitation. Narrative sells.

It’s a thread that could be stretched further in Icke’s production, which sometimes gets distracted by its surface. The overwhelming range of references can obscure the fascinating cultural mutation at work, while the closing act is so shimmeringly strange that it is easy to get lost amid the woozy throng of pop culture. But while it may be a head-rush of a show, its ideas remain fizzing away for long after.

Photo: Manuel Harlan.

King Charles III, Almeida Theatre

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Originally written for Exeunt.

It is apt that King Charles III, Mike Bartlett’s brilliantly ambitious “future history play”, is opening in a week that has seen newspapers plastered with photographs of the Royal Family. As William, Kate and baby George embark on a tour of New Zealand, the media fascination would suggest that the monarchy is far from unwanted. If anything, their stock is up. But does the ceremonial head of state really have any role to play in how we define ourselves as a nation in the twenty first century? Or is monarchy today nothing more than a brand, with Wills and Kate as its glossy poster boy and girl?

It is these questions, and a wide assortment of others, that King Charles III thoughtfully and entertainingly poses. The play opens in the near future, at the funeral of the long-reigning Queen. After a lifetime of waiting in the wings, Charles is finally out of his mother’s shadow and thrust into the glare of the spotlight. But while, as he puts it, “potential holds appeal”, the long-awaited throne is a formidable prospect. Barely hours into the job, Bartlett has the tragic figure of Tim Piggot-Smith’s stubborn Charles take issue with a privacy bill that lands on his desk for royal assent, refusing to sign as a matter of conscience. With the wavering of a pen, a whole nation is suspended in uncertainty, poised between the collapse of Parliament and the overthrow of the monarchy.

Bartlett’s deliciously smart invention is as much about our theatrical heritage as it is about the threatened traditions of monarchy. Taking Shakespeare’s histories as its model, the play’s form is wrapped up in the same contradiction as our Janus-like nation: both new and old, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. His script is a witty amalgam of Shakespearean rhythms and sharp modern colloquialisms, threaded with light allusions to some of the Bard’s greatest hits. We get unyielding royal ambition, a free-spirited, Hal-esque Prince Harry in the form of Richard Goulding (who just wants to live like common people), and a Kate (Lydia Wilson) whose backroom manoeuvring has more than a hint of Lady Macbeth – even if her weapon of choice is more Dolce and Gabbana than sharpened dagger.

Rupert Goold’s assured production is cast in the same mould, delicately attuned to its Shakespearean echoes. History is subtly inscribed on Tom Scutt’s simple set, which marries candles, a wide dais decked in plush maroon carpet, and a fading mural of faces that hugs the exposed brickwork of the Almeida’s curving back wall. The figures who anxiously pace under the glare of these painted eyes have all the poise of Shakespearean heroes and the polish of modern politicians, flitting with ease between elegant blank verse and slick press conference spin. And there’s a glorious bit of Bard spoofing (and Daily Express baiting) with the ghostly appearance of a black-shrouded Diana, a contrivance that is both utterly ridiculous and absolutely faithful to the logic of Bartlett and Goold’s chosen form.

It’s often said that retellings of history reveal more about the time they emerge from than the era in which they are set; the same can be claimed for visions of the future, which have a habit of reflecting contemporary anxieties. Perhaps, then, Bartlett has found the perfect form for grappling with some of the doubts clouding our immediate national horizon. With the referendum for Scottish independence looming, British identity is suddenly up for grabs, and with it the whole hodgepodge of tradition that makes up our national character. King Charles III might not offer any answers, but it’s a compelling start to a fresh national conversation about monarchy, democracy and that most elusive and problematic of qualities – Britishness.

Photo: Johan Persson.

Tom Scutt: Deceptive Minimalism

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Originally written for Exeunt.

Watching Constellations, Nick Payne’s delicate exploration of love and the multiverse, I struggled to keep my eyes off the balloons. Like a birthday party run riot, Tom Scutt’s design was full of the things – white, weightless, hovering above the stage. Throughout the show, these floating objects spoke continually to Payne’s themes, lightly hinting at atoms, at possibilities, at easily punctured hope. In a similar way, 13 was refracted through the huge black box that dominated the stage of the Olivier, its nightmarish presence suggesting everything that was so disquieting about Mike Bartlett’s vision.

“It’s just a black box; it’s just a load of white balloons,” Scutt says when we chat in the Royal Court bar, acknowledging the simplicity of these designs with a smile. He goes on to describe his design for The Djinns of Eidgah, currently running in the Court’s upstairs theatre, as “just a load of string”. This simplicity, however, often contains within it great complexity. While Scutt’s portfolio features an impressive range of work – from the minutely detailed pub of The Weir to the magical landscape of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – it can usually be characterised by an intellectual depth that belies its surface charm.

When I suggest that the deceptive minimalism of the sets for Constellations and 13 is what makes them work, Scutt nods, but jumps in to qualify the uncluttered clarity of these concepts. “You can tell when simplicity is simplicity because of ease and when simplicity is simplicity because of something that is constantly feeding the audience,” he explains carefully. For Scutt, design is always about feeding the audience, about offering them something beyond a straightforward setting for dramatic action.

As in Constellations and 13, Scutt’s designs have a habit of excavating something within the plays they contain. This is perhaps a result of Scutt’s process, which tends to involve more reading and writing than it does drawing – a “dirty confession” for a designer. “I can’t really design unless dramaturgically I know what’s going on,” Scutt tells me, revealing that his process is “very argy-bargy with other people’s roles in the team”. While he shies away from the term “collaborative”, which he feels is over-used, Scutt is keen to dissolve some of the misleading distinctions between creative roles, explaining that “it’s a completely fluid affair when I’m working with a director”. When he first worked with Natalie Abrahami, for example, she brought in a set of storyboards, while he arrived armed with a heavily annotated script.

Scutt’s way of working, which he describes as a “really rigorous process of elimination of ideas”, also means that the design often takes shape relatively late into the process. But when it does finally fall into place, he knows that it’s right: “I don’t know what anything is going to look like for so long, and then suddenly it just lands and it makes sense.” Despite the dramaturgical rigour of his process, however, the designs that Scutt has been most satisfied with have all been born from instinctive ideas that “won’t fuck off”. “It’s intuitive,” he says, “the gut just goes ‘this is right’.”

This was certainly the case with 13, which was “there all the time; I just couldn’t get it out of my head”. The monolithic revolving cube was “tonally right” for the play, Scutt explains, rather than drawing on one particular theme. The image of the box represented “science and religion in one, it was Pandora’s Box, it was nightmares, it was an alarm clock, it was an iPhone and a laptop, a black hole that you stare into, it was 2001 Space Odyssey, it was the blue box in Mulholland DriveA similarly multi-layered collage of ideas informed the design for Constellations, which alluded to “synapses in the brain and atoms and sperm and weddings and parties”, while at the same time combining great beauty and profundity with something “shit and basic and sort of mundane”. In both instances, the design seized on something in the metabolism of the play without taking any literal inspiration from the text.

Although these conceptual designs might be some of the most rewarding, they are also some of the hardest – “it always scares the bejeezus out of me,” Scutt laughs. “It’s what Carrie Cracknell would call hard good,” he continues. “It’s really satisfying, it’s really crunchy and you really have to get your head round it.” But, for all his enthusiasm for the minimal and conceptual, Scutt also makes a vital clarification about his more realistic designs. “When I do a ‘naturalistic’ design, or a perceived naturalistic design, it’s actually not at all,” he says, expressing frustration at readings of his work which underestimate the work being done just below the surface. Whether it is the wild, playful quality of the taxidermy that cluttered No Quarter in the upstairs space at the Royal Court, or the fractured, schizophrenic tone of his design for Cracknell’s production of Wozzeck for the ENO, there is always more to Scutt’s designs than immediately meets the eye.

“There’s way more thought that goes into these things than people understand,” Scutt says, referring as much to other designers as to himself. We discuss Ian MacNeil’s hauntingly elegant designs for A Doll’s House and Desire Under the Elms, while I later think of the seemingly stripped backed simplicity of Chloe Lamford’s set for The Events and the amount of work it is quietly doing in that piece. Scutt suggests that the nature of the theatre culture in this country means that some audiences – and particularly some critics – are not “visually astute”, and that the expectations of naturalism often lead to a misreading of ostensibly realistic designs. “If someone sees a chair, they go ‘ah, I know where I am’, and so they quantify it in terms that they can relate to,” he explains.

As well as falling foul of misunderstandings about how design enters into dialogue with a show, Scutt thinks that designers suffer from a rigid and often inaccurate distribution of creative roles by critics and commentators. This is highlighted particularly by awards, which sharply divide recognition into job titles – something with which Scutt and the whole creative team felt uncomfortable when Constellations was showered with nominations. “We all felt really weird that anybody could be split up in that way,” he remembers. “We made a thing; it wasn’t a play with a design, it wasn’t something that you could just whack on stage and it just happens that everything else is really nice. It was a thing, and it’s only what it is because of all the tiny little things that come together in a weirdly relevant way.”

Scutt’s suggested solution, as well as demystifying the roles of various different individuals in the theatremaking process, is to break down perceived hierarchies of creation. “We should all be as unimportant as each other,” he says, grinning at this idea. “I think that’s when it’s really exciting, because everyone’s opinion is valid and nobody’s opinion is wrong.”

This goes some way towards explaining Scutt’s latest challenge. He has recently been announced as one of the associates joining new artistic director Sam Hodges at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton – a rare instance of a designer being offered a position of this nature. As part of a team that includes playwright Adam Brace and directors Blanche McIntyre, Natalie Abrahami and Michael Longhurst, Scutt will be offered an equal hand in decision making, marking a move away from the traditional division of roles.

“It feels like a really healthy and interesting step for me to be involved in decisions when it comes to programming and casting and the building, rather than just necessarily the designs,” Scutt says, adding that he is embracing the experience as a chance to learn and evolve as an artist. One of his first projects will be a reunion with Constellations director Longhurst to work on a new version of Caryl Churchill’s A Number, which is due to open in February.

The structure of a building and Hodges’ flexible approach to creative roles, meanwhile, might offer Scutt the space to continue following his gut. Because when design works best, Scutt suggests, it comes from instinct rather than intellect. “That’s how I feel design should work, that it works intuitively,” he reflects. “You don’t have to justify it; it just sort of happens.”

Photo: Geraint Lewis.

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, Royal Court

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The repeated central question of Dennis Kelly’s dark allegory, emblazoned in giant letters at the back of Tom Scutt’s set, is a troubling one: “goodness or cowardice?” Are supposedly moral decisions just a case of taking the easy road? Is a decision really the “right” one if no “wrong” alternative occurs to you? Are virtue and fear simply one and the same? But beneath it, running in a thick, throbbing artery through the metabolism of the play, is an even more troubling question: is there really any such thing as truth?

In an interview with Maddy Costa for The Guardian, Kelly states his preference for plays that ask questions over those that provide answers, admitting that he’s “not really sure” what The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is about. I would, for the most part, agree that asking questions is more productive – not to mention more interesting – than offering solutions. A question leaves audiences thinking, while a firm conclusion can immediately alienate those who don’t agree with it. When everything is questioned, however, the provocation to look for answers is neutralised. Why search for a version of the truth if all truths are exposed as relative and ultimately meaningless?

Life’s stark absence of meaning is a revelation that forms the hinge of Kelly’s play. His eponymous protagonist, Gorge Mastromas, starts out as an essentially moral human being. When offered a choice, he takes the decent option, be it standing by a mate at primary school or remaining faithful to hastily voiced promises. Kelly and director Vicky Featherstone offer us this series of early incidents in Gorge’s life via an extended sequence of collective storytelling: the six cast members sit in a line of chairs at the front of the stage, sharing the history of Gorge’s life from the moment of his inadvertent conception. And my use of the word “history” is no accident; this simple but striking opening deliberately foregrounds the construction of historical narratives, offering a fragmented, unreliable and polyvocal account of Gorge’s life, told from a perspective that is never quite acknowledged or qualified.

Our protagonist’s Faust moment arrives when a ruthless businesswoman briskly informs Gorge that life is not what he has until that moment believed it to be – “it is not fair, it is not kind, it is not just”. But if he’s willing to sell his soul to the demons of cutthroat capitalism and merciless self-advancement, he can have whatever he wants: power, money, sex. The trick is simply to lie from the bottom of his heart, heedless of the consequences of those falsehoods. Embracing this new philosophy with only the lightest flicker of hesitation, Gorge is swiftly mounting the ladder to unimaginable wealth and power – an unstoppable capitalist juggernaut. Be it a company, a house or a woman, Gorge always gets what he wants. What follows is acquisition at the expense of all else, painting a sorry picture of our society’s trajectory and the lessons it implicitly instils in us.

It’s an old story, but one that is drenched in the giddily unfettered capitalism of the 80s and 90s, playing on the myth of indefinite growth and the conviction that everything is there for the taking if only individuals are willing to grab it. The main commodity to be traded, however, is not property or shares, but narrative itself. Gorge is a spinner and seller of stories – most explicitly with his fabricated bestselling memoir, but also in the fibs he blithely tells those around him in order to get ahead. And people want to believe these fictions. When speaking of “people”, that necessarily extends to the audience, all of us eager to grasp onto something solid, some narrative structure that makes sense of this world. By drawing attention to this, and to the lies that even our narrators are incessantly telling, the play makes us immediately doubt anything it tells us, as well as doubting our own interpretations of these versions of the truth.

The shifting ground of Kelly’s play is shaken further by this production – if, indeed, we can speak of the two separately, which is always a slightly disingenuous project. The dynamic division of Gorge’s story between the cast, delivered with an edge of irony, is reminiscent of now ubiquitous techniques of poststructural performance, at once bringing to mind the likes of both Forced Entertainment and Martin Crimp (useful reference points for the disruption of meaning and narrative). This engaging, teasing mode of delivery is contrasted with the far less compelling – and often overlong – “scenes” that pepper the play, offering an ever-so-slightly heightened variation on naturalism. Which offers the picture that is closest to the truth is left down to us, as the performance style of each in turn subverts its own stated veracity.

The figure of Gorge himself, meanwhile, is a tight knot of contradictions. When Tom Brooke first shrugs on the role of the anti-hero, he is a quivering, deferential employee, eager to please and anxious of hurting. After offering such a detailed portrait of this meek, decent man, it is difficult to dismiss his ghost, which hovers over all of Gorge’s subsequent deceptions. Never is he quite as convincing as when still in possession of his morals. Alongside the fleshed out emotional detail that Kate O’Flynn’s compassionate performance offers Louisa, the unlucky object of Gorge’s affections, Brooke’s mercenary entrepreneur is a skeleton of a character, at times nearing a caricature of capitalist greed. Yet this thinness seems oddly apt; it could be argued that it shows up the absurdity of this Game Theory style of self-serving logic in both life and drama. Human beings are strange, irrational creatures, and to drain them of that irrationality – be it by a capitalist logic of acquisition or a notion of drama that is built upon clear character motivation – leaves only empty shells.

The empty facade is also a recurring feature of Tom Scutt’s intelligent, thematically excavating design. His self-contained naturalistic spaces, which form the backdrop for the correspondingly “realistic” scenes, always offer a hint of superficiality, from the calculated blandness of a corporate office to the moneyed sheen of a hotel suite. By the time the scene shifts to Gorge’s lakeside palace and a dilemma that will test just how far he’s prepared to go to protect this painted paradise, any attempt at substance is abandoned, leaving only a flat simulacrum of a landscape on a screen behind the actors – the shimmering mirage of Gorge’s life, concealing only emptiness. Elsewhere in the design, the stubborn search for a pattern is offered visual expression: the constellations of a life are brightly dotted on an image of the night’s sky, paper is pinned to the walls in imitation of the detective’s evidence trail, and neon lines are traced over a graph.

Through this kind of detail, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas offers much to chew and puzzle over, for the most part sustaining intellectual vitality over its testing two hour and 45 minutes running time. That hovering question mark over truth, however, niggles at me throughout. While I have other doubts about the piece (it’s far longer than it needs to be, for starters, and Gorge’s moral descent lacks the punch that I suspect it’s reaching for), my main concern is prompted by its political position; or, rather, how it seems to politically let itself off the hook. The questioning of truth is interesting in itself and follows the thread of much poststructuralist/postmodern (depending on how you like to define it) thought in suggesting that there is no foundational reality that we can appeal to, but it is equally in danger of rendering all truths equally invalid, thus making any attempt at morality pointless.

My mind is dragged back to the recent discussion Dan Hutton and I had about hope in theatre, which strayed into similar territory. In that dialogue I borrowed from Liz Tomlin’s new book Acts and Apparitions (a text that I increasingly think could be a vital reference point in navigating post-postdramatic performance practice), and it feels appropriate to return to Tomlin now. Her book traces the postmodern thought mentioned above and considers the possibility of making a radical gesture in theatre today, when any notion of the true or the real has received a thorough battering. To demonstrate how she grapples with this, I want to quote part of the text:

“Accepting that every narrative is implicitly ideological does not equate to the acceptance that any given narrative is thus beyond ideological analysis or distinction. The artist or critic’s choice to propagate one narrative over another will still result in a ‘real’ impact on the artists, the audiences and, to some degree at least, the ideological shape of the historical period in which the work is situated.” (pp.6-7)

In other words, the version of the truth that we choose to tell has an effect, whether or not it can appeal to some original, authoritative, universal truth. This version of the truth might even have the power to change the world, a power about which Gorge Mastromas feels distinctly ambivalent. Individuals such as Gorge can change things, but only for their own gain; beyond the certainty of lying, the universe is portrayed as cold, cruel and chaotic. If we choose to present an image of the world in which there is no truth, only lies, then perhaps there is a responsibility towards the “real” impact of that image. By seemingly refusing that responsibility and falling back on relentless uncertainty, Gorge Mastromas – for all its merits – feels like a bit of a cop out. If the question is “goodness or cowardice?”, I would tentatively suggest that Kelly errs towards the latter.

Photo: Tristram Kenton.