Gruesome Playground Injuries

From the title, Gruesome Playground Injuries sounds like grim viewing. Indeed, there are several disturbing moments. However, at its core, this new play from American writer Rajiv Joseph is tender and warm-hearted, charting the unlikely friendship of the two injury-prone protagonists – Doug (Brad Fleischer) and Kayleen (Jules Wilcox).

An innovative and well crafted piece of American theatre, with fine performances and an intelligent script.

Gruesome Playground Injuries tracks this friendship from its beginning in the school nurse’s office, when Doug and Kayleen are aged eight, through the protagonists’ school days and into adulthood. The story is told through a series of meetings between the pair, who are always brought together by some injury or another. Doug is a foolhardy young man, constantly injured through acts of idiocy (or ‘bravery’, as he calls it). Kayleen, on the other hand, is neurotic, plagued by self-harm and depression.

The versatility shown by the two performers is admirable – they play these characters from childhood to their late 30s, and remain convincing and emotive throughout. In particular, their facial acting and movements are impressive – you can tell exactly what they are thinking without them needing to open their mouths. Wilcox is especially powerful as Kayleen, simultaneously making us laugh and evoking our sympathy. Her natural performance is a triumph.

Joseph’s script is, for the most part, successful. The story unfolds nicely over the course of the show, and doesn’t always take the obvious route, which makes the play consistently engaging. In particular, the non-chronological structure is clever, creating suspense by constantly referring to events in the chronological past, but which we have yet to witness in the play. The structure never becomes confusing, as a blackboard at the back charts the age that the characters are in each scene.

Nevertheless, the script is not perfect – it occasionally veers into cliche, particularly in the childhood scenes, and in some of Doug’s dialogue. This is never hugely problematic, but does occasionally detract from the realism that Fleischer and Wilcox strive so hard to create.

Overall, this is an innovative and well crafted piece of American theatre, with fine performances and an intelligent script. It is certainly worth a watch.

Reviews by Mark Danciger

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Gruesome Playground Injuries

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The Blurb

From missing eyes to broken hearts, this darkly humorous drama by Rajiv Joseph highlights the intersections of two star-crossed lives as they chart a 30-year course of friendship, veiled emotions, and bodily harm.

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