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Disturbing themes dominate Orphans


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Orphans raises expectations with its award-winning script, talented cast and resourceful crew, but undermines them with a production that’s high on violence yet short on rationale.

Staccato dialogue, hot-tempered action sequences, and shock-and-awe themes dominate what is a disturbing, in-yer-face thriller which, despite some strengths, left me dissatisfied.

Playwright Dennis Kelly’s script delves into the dismal amorality of bystander intervention, racism, abortion and the breakdown of society. It’s a demoralising examination (the writer seems to think mild-mannered middle-class types can resort to misanthropy with limited incentive) of the self-serving nature of human beings in difficult circumstances and an overwhelming indictment on how ordinary people can behave obscenely, resorting to violence, blackmail, torture and disinterest with little motivation.

If you like that kind of thing, then you’ll like this. However, despite the seeming potential of the work and the collective talents of the Blue Fruit Theatre ensemble, I found it monotonous and untidy, with the characters never completely believable.

Ultimately, this production of Orphans ends up as a play about a triad of unlikeable and incomprehensible people who react to a situation that’s questionable. From its explosive beginning, when Liam (Sam Calleja), wearing a blood-soaked shirt, bursts into a room occupied by his sister Helen (Anna Cheney) and her husband Danny (Charles Mayer), the plot peters out to an uninspired  and predictable ending.

Orphans is at the Bakehouse Theatre until November 23.

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