70 minutes with one actor: no props, no sound kit, no supporting acts. Watching Evil was like listening to an unaccompanied vocalist; the performance is carried along by the sheer talent of the solo performer, who completely owns the stage and every single mind in the audience throughout the length of this bildungsroman.
Set in 1950s Sweden, and based on a true story by Jan Guillou, we follow a teenage boy who is regularly bullied and beaten up by his father. Inevitably, psychological scars result from the years of abuse, setting the scene for what we fear must be later disaster. The plot follows the boy to boarding school, focussing on his character as he makes friends, gets into trouble, and uses violence as a self-defence mechanism – even though his dream is, understandably, one day to become a defence lawyer.
Jesper Arin’s performance is compelling, and he has complete mastery of his domain. The script is filled with powerful lines, especially when you consider that this is based on a true story: “Please, father, don’t hit my face… I have school tomorrow.” The direction is clever too, including an unusual technique for portraying a dialogue between two characters: Arin faces the audience as the protagonist, and turns his back when it is the other character speaking. Together with excellent use of accents to delineate his roles, it makes the dialogue intuitive and easy to follow.
At times the plot is a bit predictable, but that’s perhaps to be expected from this peek into the horrible reality that many young boys faced – when “you might use violence to escape from violence,” as our protagonist says rather too wryly. With a central New Town venue and an ideal evening slot, there’s no excuse for missing this fantastic, haunting tale of coming of age.