Killer Joe (2 stars)

This article is from 2007.

Video nasty for the stage

Comedians doing serious theatre is a Fringe staple these days; this year, they’ve moved from cinema adaptations to filmic plays. Still, Tracy Letts’ script, in which an impoverished, lazily-drawn trailer park family strike a Faustian pact with local devil-in-a-stetson Killer Joe Cooper, is an awkward choice. There are some fine dramatic performances here – the ever-excellent Lizzie Roper makes the most of not very much at all, and Tony Law fairly crackles with calm menace as the eponymous moralising psychopath. What’s absent, weirdly, is comic timing. As the tension racks up, the sorely-needed jokes just fall flat.

There are two female characters. One is sold into prostitution and forcibly stripped, the other beaten and sexually humiliated in an excruciating scene. As no commentary is offered, not even a crude sticking-plaster of comeuppance, these scenes have all the lumpen, amoral ethos of the current rash of ‘torture porn’ movies infesting your local multiplex. Guns are waved. There’s a bloodbath. What makes Killer Joe uncomfortable viewing isn’t, as the producers seem to believe, that the action on the stage is ‘shocking’. It’s not. We’ve seen this sort of sub-Tarantino thing, endlessly. It’s the cold disregard for humanity, displayed by the playwright as much as the characters.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until Mon 27 Aug (not 13), 6pm, £10–12 (£8.50–£10).

Killer Joe

  • 2 stars

Video nasty for the stage about an impoverished trailer park family who strike a Faustian pact with local devil-in-a-stetson Killer Joe Cooper. Completely absent of comic timing, or of any regard for humanity. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'.

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