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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas

"Gorge Mastromas leapt into the second phase of his life with all the energy of a bullet tearing into the soft fleshy parts of a man's guts." — Narrator
The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
Pippa Haywood as A and Tom Brooke as Gorge (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Dennis Kelly's latest play, opening Vicky Featherstone's main play season at the Royal Court and directed by her, is a curious tale of right and wrong, of choices and capitalism over the span of a man's life. The first and most immediate thing to strike you is Kelly's choice of construction with a long opening scene of narrative delivered by the whole cast seated in a line of chairs.

This opening narrative forms the early history of Gorge Mastromas (at this point we are not sure which actor is playing Gorge). The narrative arc describes his conception to when Gorge is in his early 30s and has taken a decision up to now between what he terms, "Goodness or Cowardice?" The different actors delivering are always interesting and we laugh many times in this opening sequence although we soon also began to ask, " Will all the play be like this? and "Why isn't this just a radio play if we are to see no actors just narrators?"

Cut to a scene set in a business that's subject to a takeover bid. A (Pippa Hayward) is the financial aggressor and M (Alan Williams) the owner trying to defend his business from the bank to whom he owes money and who appear to back A's ruthless actions. A bystander to this is our man G (Tom Brooke) for whom this forms a first lesson in business, "Golden Rule One: Whenever you want something - take it." Golden Rule Two is about how to lie and Golden Rule Three is "Never, ever, ever regret". This revelation is the start of Gorge's ascent towards wealth and power and his equal descent into greed and immorality.

In the next two scenes, in between there are more passages of commentary, we meet Gorge and his brother Gel who comes to balance the family reckoning, and in the final scene, Gorge meets a relation. Like Dorian Gray, Gorge descends into corruption and crime.

Tom Brooke as Gorge is always an interesting actor with his complex body language and his serious, even morose, expression. The ensemble cast produce excellent performances but at almost three hours the plays feels overly long. Alan Williams has one of those lived in faces that express the cares of the world weary and I liked Jonathan McGuinness' as Gorge's brother Gel who refuses to be bought off. Pippa Haywood has versatility in her roles and Kate O'Flynn and Joshua James add sincerity.

So why did Kelly write this condemnation of greed and acquisition - is there a clue in an anagram of Gorge's name Mortgage Morass? The final scene has a neon tube graph showing downward movement superimposed on the slag heap, a visual summary of Gorge's current situation. I did wonder whether Kelly's parable would have been as effective in a novel as in a drama.

Bravo to Vicky Featherstone for kicking off her Royal Court opening season with a play full of controversy and material to discuss and ponder over.

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The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Vicky Featherstone

Starring: Tom Brooke, Pippa Haywood, Joshua James, Jonathan McGuinness, Aaron Monaghan, Kate O'Flynn, Alan Williams
Designed by Tom Scutt
Music: Nick Powell
Lighting: Philip Gladwell
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Running time: Two hours 55 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 19th October 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 11th September 2013 performance at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Sloane Square London SW1 (Tube: Sloane Square)

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