‘Food for thought in a timely and urgent play.’
As the recent Florida school shooting continues to be headline news around the world, the debate never really extends to examining the reasons why these young men commit these horrific crimes. Perhaps it’s less confronting to talk about arming teachers rather than looking at how we’ve failed our young people.
In Alex Packer’s one man play he starts to unpick the reasons why one young man feels so disenfranchised that he just wants to eliminate his fellow human beings in the most vicious way possible.
Packer shows us his unnamed anti-hero as a confused twelve year old, sweet and anxious and more at home in his bedroom with his Gameboy and his disastrous initial forays into masturbation. As he grows, this young man takes his frustrations personally. He simply can’t understand why his clumsy (but to him, chivalrous) efforts to seduce a girl don’t work and we’re party to a hilarious Inbetweeners-style attempt to lose his virginity. The action soon takes a dark turn as our anti-hero can’t or won’t forgive those who wrong him. It’s not just the unattainable self-assured girls at his college, it’s his housemates, his best friend, a girl at a coffee shop who seem to all conspire to hurt him. Without the emotional tools to cope, his thoughts turn to violence.
As the young man, Mark Conway has us hanging on his every word. With a physical ease that comes from his experience as a movement director, he takes us from nervy pre-teen to intense young adult. He draws us in to a passionate explanation of Tetris reminiscent of the lengthy descriptions that pepper American Psycho but he’s seen as just a weirdo, a loner … harmless.
This is a very British tale and Packer cleverly demonstrates how a Florida-style shooting could be waiting for us here too. Superb directing by Anna Marsland keeps the action tight and Frances Roughton’s design, Peter Tomes’ lighting and writer Packer’s sound design come together to create an ambitious landscape for this story.
At sixty minutes the play is festival-tight and could easily afford to expand a little. But it’s no bad thing to leave the theatre wanting more. Food for thought in a timely and urgent play.
BALLISTIC by Alex Packer
Directed by Anna Marsland
Presented by Mini Mall Theatre
King’s Head Theatre 27 February - 17 March 2018
Reviewer Siân Rowland is a playwright and comedy writer represented by Kitson Press.