- Frances Salter reviews The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at the Royal Court
Goodness or cowardice? This is what The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas repeatedly asks its young hero, as he makes honourable but dull decisions that lead him into a life of unsatisfying righteousness. In a modern capitalist twist on the Faust morality tale, Gorge (Tom Brooke) is confronted by a businesswoman (Pippa Hayward) who claims to be able to stop time, and take whatever she wants in life through the power of deception.
The fear of ‘goodness’ as a set- back is one we all recognise, and the play succeeds in a clever teasing-out of a more humanistic quality in the Christian dilemma: the choice between God and the devil, around which the Faust story is based. Gorge quickly ascends through the ranks of the business world through a thrilling aptitude for lying, reaching an exciting but dangerous level of power.
Reworking a classic Christian morality tale for more secular times is a brave move, and one which the play’s first act does cleverly; but it felt as if the second act lost the courage of its convictions, much like Gorge himself. Whilst the drama remained watchable and fast-paced, the play began to rely more on shock and plot twists, and forgot its original ‘goodness or cowardice?’ question. The play leaves out Faust’s repentance scene – instead, it concludes on a note of judgement towards Gorge, which falls a little flat given the spectacular lengths that the play has already gone to acknowledge Gorge as a ‘bad’ character.
Perhaps the traditional repentance scene would have been too obvious, or too Christian, but given the precedent the play has set for re-working the morality tale, it would have been satisfying to see a twist on the classic ending, rather than the abrupt conclusion. That said, the play is brilliantly acted and very funny throughout.
Tom Scutt, the play’s designer, described the process of staging the play as a difficult one, as its unusual structure makes it hard to visualise. Nonetheless, the play’s dark comedy suits Tom’s style of designing – it is, in his words, “glib at the same time as being epic.” Though he’s made three shows with the Royal Court before, Tom feels that this is a particularly important moment for theatre, as the arrival of the Royal Court’s new artistic director, Vicky Featherstone, makes this an especially imaginative time.
The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is your chance to see exciting, contemporary theatre as it emerges. With tickets at £10 on Mondays, it’d be rude not to!
The play runs until 19th October