Random Acts of Malice, written by Alan Fraser, and directed by his son, Lewis, was a warm and welcome break from Storm Ciara yesterday evening. As well as the weather performing as pathetic fallacy to the psychological thriller I was sitting down to watch, (and matching the storm taking place in Fraser’s script) the play tackled some huge themes: the ethics of religion, the lesser of two evils, and human connection. Aside from the thought provocation that came hand-in-hand with the script, it was really lovely to sit down, become immersed in a narrative, and simply enjoy a good play.
“When Hal Devereaux, a visiting American geologist, arrives at James’ family home late one evening asking for help, it seems a little more than another burden for the over-worked minister. Although polite at first, the family begin to suspect that their guest is not as easy-going as he seems.”
The opening of the show involved Hal Deveraux (played by Ejiro Imiruaye) sitting on a chair in a single spotlight, in front of the Banham Theatre stage. Whilst reciting his first monologue, Imiruaye’s accent was beautifully complimented by Western, country music that had me settled down and thinking that I was about to see something reminiscient of The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (1966). Luckily for everyone involved, Angel Eyes was nowhere to be seen this evening.
It was during the next scene that the show started to encounter some technical issues with lighting and props, which was to be expected considering that I was watching the company’s first full dress-run with lights and sound. Despite these moments, I was never distracted from the play’s narrative, and the performers on stage were professional enough to know how to adapt their performances to do so.
In the family’s first scene together, Molly Anderson (playing Larissa Petrie) had me smiling from the moment that she walked on stage. Her fun, youthful, and feminine energy had me entranced; she was a joy to watch throughout. My smile stayed firmly fixed on my face as the scene continued, where we saw Reverend James Petrie (Alec Sims) dance with his wife, Hannah Petrie (Chloe Arrowsmith). This family set-up felt very peaceful and nostalgic, especially with The Beatles playing in the background, and therefore juxtaposed the family of three’s fate in Act 2.
At times, I felt as though the performers’ projection could have been better, especially as a lot of the direction included family members flitting in and out of the dining room, whilst continuing their conversations with others from outside. Although I missed a few lines of dialogue due to this, I thoroughly enjoyed this element of Fraser’s direction; it was so natural, and instantly reminded me of trying to hold a conversation with my sisters back home.
My favourite moment of the whole play was when Hal told the Petries about his life in America, including the time he saw Madonna from behind the wheel of his car. Sims’ comic timing after this re-telling was ingenius. “No way… The Mother of Christ?!” had me chuckling long after the play was over.
Imiruaye’s second monologue had the potential to feel lengthy and repetitive, but this part of his performance was incredible. Somehow, he managed to tell Hal’s story so colourfully using the immense power behind his eyes, solidifying that he is the stand-out performer of Random Acts of Malice.
I found the police-style tapes a well-stylised motif, highlighted by Al Simpson’s lighting design that saw a spotlight hit the white lily in the centre of the stage as they played. The audio footage reminded me of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe; the tone, rhythm and subject matter seemed to blend together beautifully.
Overall, Random Acts of Malice was definitely a success, and one that I would go back and see again. The characterisation, direction, and script worked together well, and the company seemed tight-knit and sensitive to the subject matter, as well as eachother’s successes on and off stage.
Words by Morgan Hartley.