Posted by Corina Thorose
27. Feb, 2015
The 2015 season has well and truly kicked off at the newly renovated Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre. Under the direction of Dennis Kelly, Mark Wilson’s The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas has gotten the ball rolling with the usual combination of sinister humour and a tough morality lesson.
On a bright white and barren set, Gorge Mastromas opens by breaking the fourth wall. All five actors arrange themselves upstage and address the audience, narrating the life of the title character, Gorge Mastromas. With a mixture of dry humour and painful nostalgia, the biography of Gorge’s life unfolds, beginning with his conception, gestation and birth, and progressing through the cruelty of the schoolyard to the feelings of inadequacy and ineptness that plague Gorge’s adulthood. Brief intervals of media projections and engaging monologues allow us to learn about his adolescent fumblings and a lifelong battle between goodness and cowardice.
Interestingly, the first dialogue between the characters does not occur until the second act, when Gorge faces the first moral dilemma of his professional life. Bathed in the glow of a seductive red spotlight, the time comes to make a deal with the devil. This juncture proves to be the point of peeling the Gorge shaped onion, as it is from here on out that we learn about the intricacies of his moral compass – or lack thereof.
The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is twisted. It grips the audience by its jugular and squeezes like a rabid dog. Just when you think it can’t get any bleaker, it does. It goes places that are difficult to sit through, but sit through them you will. Because though the plot is grim and the protagonist thoroughly unlikeable, there’s a lesson afoot here that can’t be ignored. Goodness or cowardice?
The power is within the script. Lead actor Richard Cawthorne is good but unremarkable as the self serving Gorge, while Elizabeth Nabben pulls off some truly impressive moments of horror as his psychologically battered wife. The ensemble carries the show, with Dion Mills, Olga Makeeva and Jordan Fraser-Trumble whipping in and out of a kaleidoscope of characters, weaving a tapestry of empathy, exploitation, the cycle of abuse, and the interchangeability of goodness versus cowardice.
Unfortunately, some of the stage direction is a little vague to really represent the core message of the devil walking among us. Props are left downstage after set changes, and ensemble members inexplicably shift locations during soliloquies for no discernible reason. The lighting design is effectively symbolic, as is the media narrative that provides the macabre backstory.
Provocative and chillingly original, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is a powerful deconstruction of the distinction between right and wrong, and the dangers of the kind of love that breeds in darkness. At Red Stitch until 7 March.
The Ritual Slaughter Of Gorge Mastromas
Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda
Friday February 6 – Saturday March 7
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