5 March 2015

Kill me Now at the Park Theatre was tender in a shocking way

Everything about this evening was a delight.

I think that I have Facebook to thank to alerting me to a performance of Muswell Hill at the Park Theatre (I had seen the play before and Facebook knew that) and that got me looking at the Park Theatre's website, that was a new theatre for me.

A quick look suggested that the theatre was well worth a try-out visit and this would be easy to do as it was located very close to Finsbury Park station on the useful Victoria Line. I was struggling to find enough free evenings to do everything so rather than see Muswell Hill again I chose to see Kill Me Now which had the intelligence to describe itself as a "black comedy" which is right in my sweet-spot. It also helped that the cast included Oliver Gomm who I had seen twice previously (Orange Tree and Rose), playing a foppish toff both times.

I booked online at short notice but there was just me going and I was able to bag the one free seat in the front row, A51, for a very reasonable £25. Why pay west-end prices?

I had cleverly arranged to work in London, Kings Cross, that day and, as I had plenty of time and the weather was fine, I avoided the convenience of the tube and walked there. It took me though an hour of time and through places that I did not know well and some I did not know at all. That's why I like walking.

I had made no plans for food and was relying on being able to find something in or near the theatre.

I was delighted to find that the Park Theatre and two cafe and bar areas, on the ground and first floors, and they had a good selection of vegetarian quiches to choose from. I went for the spinach and was further impressed when the accompanying salad included pomegranate. I had a coffee to go with it.

My first impressions of the theatre were very good. I liked the open friendly spaces that included additional seating areas outside of the cafes. I liked the choice of food and drink. I liked the atmosphere and was grateful that I had chosen to go early and so was able to get a seat without too much difficulty. I gave it up later, after I had eaten, to somebody who needed it more than me.

There were two performance spaces at the Park Theatre, called simply Park200 and Park90 to denote their capacities. I was in Park200. From the website it looked much like the Orange Tree with a couple of rows of seating around the stage downstairs and a small balcony above.

Apparently it was normally set with seating on three sides but for this production it was on all four and I had one of the additional seats at the back of the stage. That confused me at first as the two doors into the theatre said what seat numbers they were for, e.g. 1 to 20 and 21 to 40, and my seat, 51, was not included. Having failed to find a third door with my number on it I gave in and asked a member of staff who explained how the problem arose and pointed me to my seat.

The play started with the father helping his disabled teenage son to take a bath and the male nudity set part of the tone for the evening.

Father and son lived alone together, the wife/mother had died, and they got a lot of help from the loving sister/aunt who was a lot younger than her brother. It was a troubled family, because of the boy's condition and the history that caused it and his mother's death, but it was loving and they coped.

The emphasis on the first part of the play was the boy and his passing through adolescence. They key changes where a friendship he developed with another boy at his school and the tablet that his aunt gave him which opened up new worlds to him, including porn.

The new relationship and technology, and his growing maturity, made the boy more able to cope and more keen for independence. He and his friend even discussed living in their own flat together in a scenario that reminded me of Elling.

Then the focus gradually changed from son to father. With the son more able to cope the father was able to think about himself more and he started a relationship. He tried to keep this secret but nobody was fooled by the regular gym sessions.

Then he was struck by a serious debilitating incurable illness and he gradually became the patient while his son, still with his friend and his aunt, became one of the carers.

All this led to why the play was called Kill Me Now.

But the ending, and the strong moral questions that posed, was just one of the great things about the play. While it ended with considerations of death it was a story filled with love and tenderness as a family and their close friends got what they could from the life they had.

There was a lot of humour too, the sort of humour that comes from the way that people naturally behave. There were no tricks, gimmicks or cheap laughs.

There were some very personal moments too including one that had the middle-aged women sitting opposite me cringing in embarrassment. Without giving too much away it was about helping the boy do what boys like to do but which he was prevented from doing by his disability. This scene also got a good laugh from the line, "She does anal." And that was typical of the whole play which combined humour and pathos to explore very human situations.

The human element worked well because all of the cast were excellent.

Kill Me Now was an exceptionally rich and rewarding play that I loved from start to finish even though it drained emotion from me like a parasitic leech.

I hung around the bar afterwards like a seasoned groupie and I got the brief talk with Oliver Gomm that I was hoping for. I like to give creatives personal feedback and they always seem to like receiving it.

Park Theatre had impressed me mightily in all aspects and I added it to my list of special theatres to keep a close eye on with the firm intention of seeing my next play there soon.

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