The title of Edward Bond’s new play – his first premiere in a London theatre in over two decades – is doubly ominous: there will be more carnage, despair and madness; and there will be two more parts to this play.
In a programme poem, Bond suggests we return to the lucid frenzy and forensic violence of the Greeks. So, this brutal domestic drama begins in the most horrific fashion as a middle-class mother kills her twin sons (dummy babies) while her husband prepares to attend a military social function.
The husband then rapes her after she accuses him of wanting her to kill the children. After an 18-year gap, the mother turns up as a refugee from the asylum that her now high-ranking husband has bombed.
A war’s going on. The younger son she has not seen before - taken away at birth when she was committed to the asylum - wanders like a sleep-walker into his parents’ disastrous reunion: more sex, more violence.
A modern Medea - “Dea” - turns into an avenging Clytemnestra and then an incestuous Jocasta. Bond’s writing is flinty and unforgiving, sometimes impenetrably opaque, sometimes startling in its rawness. The characters are etched in granite, inhuman.
The aptly named Helen Bang is tremendous as the composite Greek heroine - lustful, tragic, vengeful and desperate; Stephen Billington unflinching as her husband, Johnson; and Timothy O’Hara suitably Oedipal as the abandoned Oliver, acting blind even before he’s caught up in the atrocity.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production is full-on, uncompromising, difficult to stomach - all Bond could wish - but he’s unable to suggest any real world we might recognise, such as the one we most certainly do in Sarah Kane’s Blasted: in that play, the pupil outgunned her own master.