The Murderer is a play devised from a poem by Luke Kennard. Using physical performance and a surprising amount of humour, it explores the rehabilitation of a murderer by a citizen carer, in a parallel world where “care in the community” replaces prison. Did you want to be a carer? Will you always be a murderer?
The cast is made up of the male carer, the female murderer, and a woman portraying all of the auxiliary characters – including an extremely chipper counsellor in charge of the rehabilitation programme, various TV presenters, and a taxi driver. She also provides the amusing “plock, plock” noise of the badminton shuttlecock that features on the show’s striking posters.
We first meet the Carer making his observations of the Murderer into his Dictaphone – he only ever refers to her like this, and we never learn her name. He pedantically records everything, and his obsession with routine and order provides a level of stability for the Murderer in the beginning. But it starts to chafe with her as the play continues, thus providing the central crux.
The creative staging is undoubtedly a strength of the piece. A minimalist set is made up of three doorways decreasing in size. The framing of these doorways is often used in interesting ways, including a scene in a sandwich shop where the proprietor pops up at different doors; combined with the confusing array of sandwich options available, this makes a simple order a nightmare for the Murderer until the Carer comes to her rescue.
However, these doorways are moved with every scene; this is too frequent, breaking up the action to its detriment. Also, there were too many instances where a cast member – usually the Carer – would have their back to a large part of the audience, which was frustrating as you wanted to see their reactions.
The play is thought-provoking, and the relationship between the Murderer and the Carer is often blurred and complex. The lead roles are performed strongly and there is an excellent chemistry and level of co-ordination between the actors. Special mention too must go to the auxiliary roles, which gained the biggest laughs, and were deftly performed by the third cast member.