‘Horribly misjudged revival’: KILLER JOE – Trafalgar Studios

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Trafalgar Studios, London – until 18 August 2018 

Killer Joe is a horribly misjudged revival at Trafalgar Studios that makes a mockery of #MeToo, you and all of us.

“Is she doin’ anybody any good?” Just to be clear, I’m using the ‘she’ in the quote above to refer to the play itself here – a misjudged, tone-deaf revival of Tracy LettsKiller Joe, a poor poor replacement for The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studios and a curious choice indeed for Orlando Bloom to make a return to the West End stage.

Written in 1993 and marking Letts’ debut, it is a scorchingly nasty look at working-class American life, the desperation it forces some into, the impact that an unconstrained popular culture has on society. And whilst it may have resonated then, all that chimes now is a warning bell to keep the fuck away.

Chris is drowning in debt and decides that the only thing to do is to hire a hitman to kill his stepmother for the life insurance payout. He finds Killer Joe Cooper but his upfront fee is too much for them, so Chris’ brain-damaged sister Dottie is offered up as collateral. The collateral damage though spreads much further than just the world of this play.

No one is suggesting that scenes of ritual female humiliation are verboten (although I’m getting close) but as written here by a man and directed here by a man, they’re simply horrendous and exploitative. Not only that, for all the trumpeted equality of the nudity here, the brief flash of Bloom’s peachy cheeks is in no way comparable to the much more lingering scenes of female nudity.

Watching people be demeaned doesn’t always have to be demeaning but I have rarely felt so uncomfortable in a theatre. And not in a way that left me thinking anew about issues, rather about the kind of decision-making process that leads to drama like this being presented in the most problematic of ways. An indictment of the worst of systemic attitudes in British theatre.

Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."