Old Fitz Theatre, August 4


king res
Christian Byers and Ella Scott-Lynch. Photo: John Marmaras.

Do you remember being accused as a child, and feeling guilty when you were innocent? Or perhaps you convinced yourself of your innocence when you were guilty? Steve Rodgers’ King of Pigs is like a giant finger pointing at every male in the audience and generating one of those reactions. About violence against women, it suggests a male capacity to redefine reality: not just among perpetrators, but collectively, whether by turning away, not actively speaking out, or by helping paint the wrong sort of man on to the blank page that is a little boy.

The latter point is crucial. The lone note of hope in this confronting work is that behavioural change is possible – with a new generation. Although Rodgers is not insisting the rest of us are an entirely lost cause, the statistics quoted in his program note are frightening: over two women murdered in Australia each week by a man known to them; NSW Police may be called to over 65,000 domestic violence incidents a year, yet estimate 60% of such incidents are not reported.

Rodgers has wrestled with crafting a convincing piece of drama as his own way to confront and amplify an issue that, were it road rage and this out of control, would have been stamped out. Somehow. He has just one female actor (Ella Scott-Lynch) play Woman in different guises and scenarios, while four male actors play characters delineated by numbers (presumably to emphasise their ordinariness and universality). Man 1 (Kire Tosevski) is essentially guiltless, other than exerting subtle pressures on his 10-year-old son (Thom Blake). Man 2 (Ashley Hawkes) becomes murderous, Man 3 (Christian Byers) facilitates consensual sex leading to non-consensual group sex and Man 4 (Mick Bani) is a wife-beater. The stories are told in snippets, and first-time director Blazey Best (for Red Line) cunningly choreographs the brief blackouts separating them to maintain a helter-skelter pace.

But the male characters have scant flesh on their bones beyond their transgressions, giving the actors little with which to work. Scott-Lynch, by contrast, is provided with the raw material to turn in the play’s most telling performance. Perhaps with two stories rather than four we might have become acquainted with these characters in more than shorthand; had opportunity to feel more complex emotions than simply reviling their appalling behaviour.

Until September 1.