Adelaide Festival: Murder

It takes a while to warm to the style of this production. And warming to the material? I didn’t. Others may have.

Murder. Photo by Heidrun Löhr.
Murder. Photo by Heidrun Löhr.

Murder, is an adult puppet show – about murder. And with a title like Murder, and inspired by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds “Murder Ballads” one should be prepared, and maybe have some dark interest in this deathly domain to fully embrace it.

It is a meditation on killing, which also looks at sex, and sex and death. It explores society’s obsession with demise through a confronting range of gruesome acts leading to the end.

Like the topic or not, however, it is easy to appreciate the artistry of this work.

Using one live actor – the engaging Graeme Rhodes, a range of incredible puppets and puppeteer / performers, shadowy beautiful tracks by Nick Cave paired with exquisite multi-media and moving image – we are taken through a range of sequences with humans and puppets that are mostly horrific, yet sometimes oddly spellbinding.

Our (real) actor delivers moody monologue and also engages with the puppets through dialogue. Densely poetic writing by Raimondo Cortese accompanies (and is well suited) to Nick Cave’s ballads.

Childhood thoughts of death, violent computer gaming (with generated back-drop images) and love and sex with a female avatar draw us into a deathly gun battle.

But we know we are in for much more when a hitch-hiker accepts a creepy ride with a sinister driver. It is the serial killing references to Ivan Milat and moments of abduction and torture that hit the hardest here… and when the tables turn and serial killer is killed we experience the horror of cruelty and murder before our eyes.

The puppets in the hands of the skilled (in black and fully masked) actors are so life-like that we even feel their emotions; the flick of the hand, the tilt of the head and the arching and bending in sexual ecstasy.

If the intention of this show is for us to be somewhat repulsed, and to almost forget puppets are being manipulated by the living… then this odd and grisly production succeeds. Very Interesting!

Stephen House

Stephen is a writer with numerous plays, exhibitions and short films produced. He has been commissioned often and directs and performs his work. He has won two AWGIE Awards from The Australian Writers Guild and an Adelaide Fringe Award (as well as more), and has received several international literature residencies. Stephen has been Artistic Director of many events. He has been performing his acclaimed solo show, “Appalling Behaviour” nationally from 2010 – 2014 (100 shows to date). Stephen has 2 new works in development.

Stephen House

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