Vengeance is whose?

Issue 

Vengeance is whose?

Vengeance
By E.P. Watts and Whistling in the Theatre
Directed by Richard Murphet
At the Gasworks Theatre, Melbourne, until August 29.
Reviewed by Bronwen Beechey

Vengeance, devised jointly by writer, director and actors, sets out to explore the relationship between betrayal, justice and revenge in the context of political loyalties.

A civil war is raging. Five supporters of the fascist cause shelter in a basement in a communist-held city. Their leader has disappeared in mysterious circumstances, perhaps dead — the victim of an internal coup or his own cowardice. Each person has their own vision of the great leader and their own interpretation of the events surrounding his disappearance. In the case of the two women, who were involved sexually with the leader, the betrayal is a personal one also.

The characters are archetypes — soldier, nun, aristocrat, whore and mute victim of torture — used to explore the forces of religion, class privilege, militarism and sexual repression which help create fascism, and explain its attraction to certain individuals. However, Vengeance fails to say anything that hasn't already been said on the subject, and does so at great length.

The script was inspired largely by the Spanish Civil War, and while the program notes claim parallels with the Croatia/Serbia/Bosnia conflict, this doesn't come through in the play. The standard of acting is high, and Peter Corrigan's Dali-inspired set evokes the barbarity lurking beneath the characters' "civilised" exteriors. Yet Vengeance is ultimately an uninvolving play, with endless talk substituting for action.