Wednesday, 19 December 2018

New play shows TV in a desperate light

THERE are few things more desperate than a television has-been clinging on to their faded career

THERE are few things more desperate than a television has-been clinging on to their faded career — your reviewer speaks from the heart. But it can make for rich entertainment.

Killjoy — not quite the play on Kilroy it might seem — taps into that vein at The Mill at Sonning. The Killjoy of the title is a fictional TV detective modelled, we presume, on Morse, or some other anti-social chief inspector with drink and social skills problems.

The tension comes from the actor playing him, Max Bentley (played for real by the excellent Michael Lumsden), who faces the combined dilemma of a massive tax bill, bankruptcy and the cancellation of his TV contract. What better way to solve his problems than by killing his nemesis?

Any more plot revelation would be to give too much away, but while the story matters, it’s the dialogue and relationships which score so well in this very funny but still credible thriller.

We can believe that an actor, especially one with no scruples, moral compass, loyalty or sense of good intent, can be driven to extremes of behaviour, murder — all the while spouting joyously relevant lines from Shakespeare, notably Macbeth.

The characters are venal, amoral and on the edge — without an apparent saving grace between them. They are fantastic and anyone who’s spent time in TV will recognise them as not so very far from the truth.

The play races along through a mixture of action, witty dialogue and confrontations and has a clever double-twist at the end.

Special mention should go to playwright Douglas McFerran for a well-wrought piece. Killjoy plays to every level and sets a lively pace through the writing. This month-long season at the Mill, which ends on June 6, is its premier but it deserves to go further.

Review: Mike Rowbottom

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