I first came across an advert for Killer Joe on Facebook. It was Orlando Bloom who caught my eye. I’ve seen his work on screen many times but I was intrigued to see what presence he brought to the stage and the story sounded interesting if a little dark. So I bought tickets. Fast forward a few months and I find myself wondering through London on a warm, summers evening, a rare night out alone with my husband.
We arrived at The Trafalgar Studios in plenty of time and so decided to have a drink and a pretzel (delicious) in the bar before the performance. It was our first time at this particular theatre and I loved it. Small and nicely put together. The play was in Studio 1. You emerge from the walkway up some steps that bring you out into the auditorium and straight onto the stage. It creates quite an entrance. Immediately the scene is before you and Sophie Cookson was already on stage in character as the innocent, yet damaged Dottie.
From the moment I emerged onto the stage and turned towards the audience to find my seat I was completely gripped. The stage simply blends into the seating so you can actually feel the dirt and grass beneath your feet as you find your way to your seat. The whole production was a complete assault on the senses. We had excellent seats (but to be honest I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house – it’s a very impressive little theatre) and the intimate nature of the studio meant that we were so close to the stage we could literally smell the food on the table and the cigarette smoke as it curled it’s way up into the darkness above us. We felt right there amongst the action. It was utterly thrilling.
One of the things I love about live theatre is the atmosphere. Although so many effects can be achieved on screen today you still can’t quite capture the feeling of it happening right before you. Killer Joe takes a closer look at the dark side of life. The underlying theme is abject poverty and abuse and characters who live a half life existing from one day to the next in despair and loathing. The only thing drowning out that despair is the loudness of the TV, the next can of beer or pill. Their lives are poisoned to the very core and the antidote to that poison, they believe, is murder. It is then they invite Joe Cooper or ‘Killer Joe’ into their lives and begin a journey with unseen consequences that will bring the play to a shocking climax.
Each member of the cast was superb. Orlando Bloom was chilling as Killer Joe and commanded the audience with his very presence. He emits a great energy and I think he enjoyed stepping into these darker shoes. He has always come across as fearless to me and I think this is something that lends itself to the role very well. The darkness of the character captured in the arrogance of his stare as his eyes sweep around the trailer and out into the audience adding to that sense of being drawn into the play and making you feel he is staring right at you.
Sophie Cookson was a joy to watch. Her Dottie was incredible, the damage to the girl growing more evident as the play moved on. Her ‘loving’ brother Chris was played by Adam Gillen and his performance of despair, fear and destruction was fantastic. Their father Ansel, was played by Steffan Rhodri, an actor I am familiar with for his hilarious role as Dave Coaches in the tv series, Gavin and Stacey. There wasn’t a hint of Dave in this performance and he switched to the role of the wasted, hard done man living in a trailer brilliantly. A man who was beaten by life and yet still trying to hold on to some degree of respect within his own household. Neve McIntosh played his wife and step-mother to both Dottie and Chris. I’ve come across Neve before on television in an episode of Death in Paradise and unknowingly in Doctor Who and her presence on stage was wonderfully engaging. Her character shocking from the very moment she walks on stage. All in all a brilliant cast and even now a few days later I am thinking of that play.
It is brutal and it’s shocking but absolutely brilliant. The final scenes come together superbly and left me on the edge of my seat and absolutely blown away. Killer Joe is due to finish on the 18th of August but if there are still tickets available then I urge you to grab some and go along.
I purchased my tickets via ATG Tickets.
Killer Joe will be playing at Trafalgar Studios until the 18th of August 2018.