Critics divided over Dennis Kelly's Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
Dennis Kelly's Royal Court debut ''The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas'' opened at the Royal Court last night (11 September 2013). Telling the story of a man caught up in capitalist greed, it is directed by Vicky Featherstone and runs until 19 October 2013
The title of Dennis Kelly's new play proves a good deal more intriguing than the play itself, an energy-sapping biographical morality tale… It's a glum, dogged and mostly humourless three-hour opening to Vicky Featherstone's regime… the play seems oddly unmoored in any recognisable contemporary setting… But even when Kelly and Featherstone really get down to brass tacks… the scene goes on for ever, and you sit in your seat editing the paragraphs as they trundle by… The play would have been different, and better, if aimed directly at the Royal Court audience.
An immense performance by Tom Brooke is the main attraction of Vicky Featherstone's first full production since taking up the artistic directorship of the Royal Court. Brooke brings an at times harrowing detail to his role as Gorge Mastromas... But Dennis Kelly's play begins unpromisingly… Here he serves up a creepy and often overblown variant on the traditional morality play… The presence of the chorus makes Gorge's story less intriguing rather than more so, flattening its contours. Despite the intensity of Brooke and poised work around him (notably from relative newcomers Kate O'Flynn and Joshua James), I found it hard to care. Yet this curate's egg of a play reinforces the impression that Featherstone's tenure will deliver surprise and variety.
…it is a punishing dud… with a running time of almost three hours the play feels interminable… Eventually the play itself gets going… This in short is a play that gratifies the audience by presenting a character everyone can both hate and feel superior too. It seems a curiously limited dramatic ambition… The cast perform with dogged efficiency but despite his starling appearance – he resembles an anorexic Mr Punch – Tom Brooke fails to either chill or thrill as the dastardly villain of the piece… The supporting characters are little more than ciphers and the best I can say of Vicky Featherstone's production is that it is lovely when it stops.
Vicky Featherstone's Royal Court regime begins with a highly traditional work. For all its modish trappings, Dennis Kelly's piece is a mix of Faustian morality play and updated Peer Gynt, about the hollowness of a rapacious adventurer. I enjoyed the bulk of it greatly – even if, after nearly three hours, I felt it had delighted us sufficiently… at his best, Kelly puts flesh on a familiar message… Featherstone's debut production puts the text before any display of directorial virtuosity… there is sharp, well-defined support from Pippa Haywood… Kate O'Flynn… and Alan Williams… It's not a play that scores a swift knockout blow, but it registers a hard-won victory on points.
…a twisted, darkly witty morality fable about the evils of rampant, greed-is-good capitalism… Tom Brooke is wonderfully compelling as the title's hero and Featherstone's skilful direction brings out all the creepy, slow-paced horror and queasy comedy in the encounters… The fine cast double as characters and as the chorus on whose teasing commentary Kelly relies too heavily. It's true that the play is long-winded and over-explicit and that, even by the standards of fable, it feels deficient in specific political context. But there are sequences of shudder-inducing power… Featherstone directs these with a stealth and insight that bodes well for the future of her regime.