Killology (by Gary Owen, writer of last year's award-winning play, Iphigenia in Splott) follows in a similar ilk to the likes of recent pieces Upstairs at The Royal Court, Yen and Wish List - focussing on the emotional turmoil suffered primarily by the younger generation in our society today. As with both of those, the writing is fresh and - generally - displays an ear for how real language can be used as a protective barrier from painful reality. And as with both of those, the performances are - generally - involving and encouraging of empathy. But stylistically, it has less to offer; relying on a structure mainly consisting of monologues (that aren't too hard to spot the overlap in), a non-specific staging possibly symbolising today's prevalence of technology (it's reminiscent of a junkyard of cables - but is never actually a junkyard of cables) and a supposed narrative that isn't really the point of the play at all.

There are shocks, there's violence, there's sadness, and there's a splattering of hope.

Ostensibly, Killology is about the latest 'shoot em up' that everyone is playing. That nameless beast "Society" - the overused archenemy of "Everyone" - is in uproar due to the extremes of the violence it displays, and encourages, from those who play. And when we live in a world where every child walks the streets with a knife and a dog - both of which to be used as weapons - do we blame entertainment for this culture or culture for this entertainment? The premise may be a bit Daily Mail but what we are really seeing is the impact that a father and son relationship - or lack of a relationship - can have on the decisions and actions we take. Which is... well actually also a bit Daily Mail come to think of it.

The three men whose lives we watch unravel as events bring them together may seem very different at first. There's Paul ('Paulie' - no, I don't know why the elongation either), the flashy inventor of the game itself with the sleeves rolled up on his slightly shiny suit jacket so we know he must be loaded and who never got enough praise from his father. Davey, the not-too-clever, not-too-popular, young son of a single mother, who tries to be a good lad, falls off the rails and then ends up doing the best he can to take the road at the junction of 'Salt of the Earth' and 'Turned his Life Around'. And finally, there's Alan (if only he were known as 'Alany', it could have been a naming convention with hidden meaning), the single Irish father, who's just about managing (I refuse to use the latest acronym) as an odd-job man living in a bedsit, smoking too much, and who is so let down by the unfairness of judgement that he feels forced to take dramatic action.

I won't give away any of the details of how their worlds collide as the plot slowly unfolds - or how such different men actually have more in common than you may at first think. Though perhaps if you can't make an educated guess already I would be more surprised than I was at seeing it myself. It's not that it's actually cliche - it just feels like well-worn comment that has been put forward since the days we accepted that 'marriages for life' and two-parent families were no longer commonplace. And the use of monologues, whilst occasionally painting some interesting imagery, add to the dated feel, not only as a structure but from the directional stalwarts of slow circular walking downstage when 'on' and shoe-staring when still onstage but 'contemplative in background' (it doesn't state this as a stage direction in the script but I assume was a common note in rehearsal).

There are shocks, there's violence, there's sadness, and there's a splattering of hope. But where Yen excelled in the rawness of the performances and Wish List - whilst having its own issues - used the characters' happiness to show their true sadness, this all feels a bit of a 'by numbers' to encourage the headline of being 'not an easy watch'. It actually is a very easy watch and there's little, if anything to hate. There's just little that adds to a common debate, little to have any impact and, though you may later recall some of the themes or moments, little to make you remember they came from this actual production. 

Reviews by Simon Ximenez

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The Blurb

“You can’t tell your mum the streets are full of psychos and it’s pure fluke you get home alive every night.”

A controversial new gaming experience is inspiring a generation.

In Killology, players are rewarded for torturing victims, scoring points for “creativity”.

But Killology isn’t sick. In fact it’s marketed by its millionaire creator as a deeply moral experience. Because yes, you can live out your darkest fantasies, but you don’t escape their consequences.

Out on the streets, not everybody agrees with him.

“There is an instinctive revulsion against taking a human life. And that revulsion can be conquered.”

Writer Gary Owen made his Royal Court debut in 2015 with Violence & Son. This co-production with the Sherman Theatre is directed by Rachel O’Riordan and is the pair’s second collaboration after the award-winning Iphigenia in Splott last year.

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