Writer and Director: Matt Wilkinson
In this one-person monologue delivered by Emily Bruni, an actor in her forties discusses a notoriously difficult auteur director with the police officers investigating his death. “What he did was not just a crime against humanity,” she opines, “It was a crime against theatre.” But just what did he do? That is one of the mysteries at the heart of this play.
Bruni’s character has reached the stage in her profession where, for women, the phone stops ringing. So she works in retail at a high-end designer boutique, waiting for her agent to phone.
When the call comes, it is for a stage reinterpretation of classic Hitchcock thriller Psycho being put together by a famously mercurial – and, if the narrator is to be believed – criminal director, Peter.
Matt Wilkinson’s script draws on much of the sexism around directors and producers, and the thought that the Weinsteins, Rudins and more of this world are but horrific scratches on the surface of problems endemic within the industry. The writer’s choice of Psycho as the foundation for the play for which Peter is casting also reminds one of Alfred Hitchcock’s own abusive attitude to the women in his works. Such thoughts are compounded by the reveal that, for the play in which the narrator is being auditioned, only the women are receiving the director’s attention when it comes to casting.
So when director and actor embark on some ‘research’ and ‘character study’ that involves going back to Peter’s hotel suite, Wilkinson is knowingly pushing some buttons. Given that at the start of the play, Bruni’s character is being questioned by police officers and talks about Peter in the past tense, there is an ever-present sense that tragedy is just around the corner – but events do not necessarily turn out the way their proximity to recent headlines might suggest.
Bruni is a whipsmart narrator here, able to relate elements of dialogue with delicate vocal changes between characters. Those subtle but effective cues are mirrored by Elliott Griggs’s lighting design, which utilises the widescreen cinema-style white backdrop to encompass Bruni as her character engages with the world around her, then isolating her when she retreats into her own thought processes.
A recurring subplot regarding a designer belt with an ornate bird-shaped buckle – a nod, perhaps, to another Hitchcock film where the director abused his leading lady? – helps to contribute to the development of a story where part of the mystery is what crime was actually committed, much less whodunnit.
Bruni’s character may have suggested that Peter’s actions were a crime against theatre, but even the best narrator can be unreliable. Events, and our impression of them, change even to the last line of Bruni’s monologue, meaning that there is no Poirot-style exposition laying out what happened, to whom and by whom.
Whether Peter was actually guilty of a crime of theatre or not, Psychodrama offers an intriguing slice of crime as theatre that, in its telling, encourages us to think of the moral crimes inherent in the theatrical process.
Continues until 3 July 2021