In David Kantounas' Gutter Junky, Harry, a young idealistic writer travels to a South American country with an insurgency, not unlike Colombia, and gets angry that they are not grateful to see him. He meets a tired, beery old hack called Bill. Later, he meets, and rescues from insurgents, a girl called, um, Girl who speaks no English. He tries to help her but she ends up hating him.
This play has its heart entirely in the right place. It’s trying to tell us how irrelevant and dangerous we are, who think to intervene in other countries without engaging with them, merely to impose our values. The utter gulf of incomprehension between interveners and intervened is nicely illustrated in a scene where Harry, researching his book, thrusts his voice recorder under the nose of Girl, who tells him, in demotic Spanish, about her home, her river, her family, how much she wants to go home. He thinks she is dropping pearls of wisdom about revolution and society.
Later, in a telling moment, he screams at her how ungrateful she is to him; “You’re a savage. When are you going to realise who I am; how lucky you are?” Anyone with half a conscience who has worked abroad will cringe with guilty recognition.
Gutter Junky is well, if sometimes hectically, performed by Richard Maxted, Andrea Pelaez and, especially, James Cunningham as Bill. And of course we love the opening music by The Doors. It is very sadly let down by some weak plotting (the tired, sozzled hack has suddenly become the London editor?) and the fact that the characters are metaphors, emblems of a point of view, not complex individuals.