Writer: Owen O’Neill
Director: Guy Masterson
Reviewer: Daniel Perks
It’s always the child’s fault, their presence is tempting the priests into committing these acts of the flesh. The children should be beaten and abused, forced into learning that their souls are tainted. Only by withstanding, nay, accepting their fate can they hope to atone and repent in the eyes of the Lord. The actions of the priests only serve as an attempt to exorcise those inner demons, so in some ways, they’re simply following God’s will. Brought up to fear and respect the church in equal measure, the victims are never going to speak out. These children are paralysed, bewildered and convinced that they are indeed to blame, and in a church community no member of the congregation is going to convince them otherwise. Better to avoid the issue that confronts religion itself.
Owen O’Neill writes and performs Absolution, a one-man show about the only person that seems to care, that seems to be revolted and incensed by the atrocities occurring around him. Told entirely in first person, he gives an account about the steps he takes to cleanse the earth from these self-righteous frauds that call themselves men of God. Two wrongs do not make a right; nevertheless O’Neill’s brand of twisted hero, avenging angel aims to bring order to the chaos, shine light onto the dark and smite down those that have sinned. Very Old Testament.
O’Neill has a detailed knowledge of his character’s background, motivations and emotional state. Without revealing the true reason for his vendetta until the very end, he exudes an almost psychopathic level of calm. Except when he is recounting the encounters between him and the priests, where the blood boils, spit flies and his knuckles tense with murderous intent. Sara June Mills’ set is plain, almost monastic in its simplicity. The focus is entirely on O’Neill who, under Guy Masterson’s direction, puts all the emphasis in the right places – deliberate; vivid; intense. The beauty in Absolution lies in its openness and, because of this, the twist at the end is all the more unexpected. Masterson ensures that there are no frills to distract from the message, the word.
Absolution. Penance. Redemption. All ways in which one can cleanse the soul and rid themselves of their misdemeanours. As the judge, jury and executioner, O’Neill takes confession and delivers his own brand of forgiveness. It is simply an extension of the atonement that the children are subjected to.
Runs until 11 June 2016 | Image: Contributed