It’s very nearly impossible for a play in the theatre to achieve genuine topicality. With the length of time it takes to write and produce most current references become ugly and outdated. The clever writer writes for all times but, with sensitive attenae attuned to the slightest of movements in the social atmosphere, they can sometimes strike an uncannily contemporary note. John Foster’s play “Five go Killing” does just that. A play about middle class, senseless violence sounds extraordinary resonances with the recent city riots and the Amanda Knox case. The central character, Joley, cannot answer the question “why?” she and her friends decided to start murdering old people in Bournemouth. She almost resorts to the answer George Mallory gave to why he wanted to climb Everest – “Because it is there.” What’s more she cannot admit to feeling anything about the killings, certainly not remorse or guilt. But the Famous Five, as they style themselves, are not chavs, or the poor or the dispossessed, they are young professionals with comfortable lives and from comfortable backgrounds.
The play itself is written as a dialogue between Joley in prison and the audience who represent her visitors. It is just that we are struck dumb by the enormity of what we are seeing and the dialogue remains one sided. This is an extraordinary collaboration between writer, actor and director. John Foster’s script is totally gripping and for an hour and half we listen to Joley’s outpourings without ever sensing the passage of time. Joley unrolls her story in a perfectly coherent manner which is beautifully judged to add horror upon horror without ever driving us away. We are always spellbound, in the thrall of the narrative and always waiting to see if we can understand that question “Why?” This is a masterpiece of writing with a fine understanding of the language of a young twenty-four old woman from an educated background. The slang never falls into the trap of being so hip that it is instantly out of date but with its own inventions and coinages it builds a terrifying sense of a closed community who could perpetrate such atrocities.
The performance by Rebecca Legrand is completely believable and satisfying. Here is a young woman who can go from spoilt little girl to hardened psycopath in the wink of an eye. She never overplays and makes her whole characterisation utterly, and frighteningly, credible. Due credit must also go to the director Jon Nicholas who has created a frightening, memorable reality out of such simple materials.
Performed in Bournemouth over the weekend of 8th and 9th October 2011