NIALL ADAMS reviews ‘Kill Me Now’ at the Park Theatre.
Greg Wise’s return to the London stage is with a powerhouse of a play. Riotously funny, emotionally raw, but above all deeply affecting: ‘Kill Me Now’ depicts the Sturdy family and their tragic, yet darkly comic, battles with debilitating disease.
Jake Sturdy (Wise) has sacrificed his burgeoning literary career and much of his personal life to care for his permanently disabled son Joey (Oliver Gomm). As Joey reaches maturity and begins to look for independence, disaster strikes leaving both father and son increasingly dependent on each other, blurring the lines between the carer and the cared for.
Brad Fraser’s script is sharp and witty, managing to manoeuvre the difficulties of disability alongside the comically warped family structure of the Sturdy’s. As new members continue to join – Jake’s sister Twyla (Charlotte Harwood), Joey’s tearaway friend Rowdy (Jack McMullen) and Jake’s married girlfriend Robyn (Anna Wilson-Jones) – Fraser artfully explores the emerging conflicts and connections between these antithetical personalities.
Fraser states one inspiration for the play was a frustration with the depiction of the disabled as “some sort of visiting angel or long suffering saints” and he does successfully avoid this trope. None of the characters are flat martyrs. Joey is well-drawn and throughout the play is layered to create a character who is never dull nor predictable.
In a production with such a talented cast it is difficult to choose a single highlight, but Gomm’s performance is spectacular. Confidently embracing the challenging physicality and vocal impediment of Joey’s condition, his portrayal of disease does not detract from the emotional arc of his character or swamp his performance. Similarly, Wise gives a triumphant portrayal of character. He is throughout, whether in the role of the concerned father or the newly dependent Jake displaced from his role as parent and carer, highly convincing. The gradual deterioration of Jake’s health is beautifully explored through Wise’s own increasingly uncontrolled movement.
Braham Murray’s direction creates a searing production. The decision to stage the play in-the-round opens the stage, leaving every angle visible to the audience. The characters’ lives, often isolated from outside society, are laid bare for the audience. The inclusion of nudity in the opening and close of the play only serves to heighten this vulnerability and becomes a haunting visual symbol of the changing roles within the family unit.
Like much of Fraser’s previous work, ‘Kill Me Now’ is sure to prove controversial. With frank and honest discussions of taboo topics, whether this be sexuality, drugs or euthanasia, the play is shocking and touching in equal measure. With a simply harrowing conclusion, ‘Kill Me Now’ is an unmissable production.
‘Kill Me Now’ will play at the Park Theatre until 29th March 2015. For tickets and more information click here: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/kill-me-now
Images credited to Alex Brenner.