Why torture is wrong, and the people who love them

Why torture is wrong and the people who love themA provocative and hilarious satire on the cults of violence and paranoia generated by the twisted logic at the heart of the US ‘War on Terror’ is explored in the Australian premiere of Christopher Durang’s Why torture is wrong, and the people who love them at Sydney’s New Theatre for a limited season from June 3.

Felicity wakes after a drunken blackout to find she’s married a quick-tempered, violent stranger called Zamir who makes Osama bin Laden look like a moderate. Is her new husband a terrorist? Is her father’s seemingly innocuous butterfly collection a front for his involvement in the shadow government?

Is her mother insane or just a harmless, if obsessive, theatre buff? And what’s with the minister who directs porn, the government operative with malfunctioning underwear and the secret agent who impersonates cartoon characters? Felicity’s world is plunging into crisis and Homeland Security never looked so insecure.

Christopher Durang is one of America’s most prolific and acclaimed playwrights, whose works include: Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Beyond Therapy, Baby With the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and most recently Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play. He has been described as a social satirist in the great tradition of Aristophanes and Jonathan Swift and Dario Fo and his pen is razor sharp in this, one of his funniest plays.

New Theatre welcomes back Melita Rowston, whose work as a director was last seen on our stage in the delightful MilkMilkLemonade (Mardi Gras 2013). A graduate of VCA, NIDA and UTS, Melita is a writer, director and performer. She is one of Sydney’s exciting new wave of theatre makers, acclaimed for her directing and drawing accolades for her writing.

“What really struck me about Torture, which Durang wrote in 2009 in response to the War of Terror, is how startlingly relevant it is to Australia now,” says Rowston.

“Manus Island, and the Abbott government’s ‘torture is ok, in difficult times difficult things need to happen’ attitude; in reality, that means on a remote, sunny island, some 52 people have been detained for nearly five years without trial on secret evidence, with no prospect of release,” she continues.

While the issues canvassed in Torture are serious and profound, Durang’s great accomplishment is to mine the absurdity to produce deeply comic characters and situations. “It’s a very clever piece,” observes Rowston.

“Very self-aware, deconstructing the meta narrative of theatre and playing with familiar conventions of theatre, film and tv to explore not only what’s wrong with our governments, but also gender roles, relationships, notions of the nuclear family and what it means to live in a modern, global society.”

“And it’s a scathing denunciation of the cult of violence within both Christian and Islamic cultures – more often than not perpetuated by men, with guns.”

“Most of all, however, it’s great writing, full of snappy one-liners and cutting wit, acerbic and tremendously funny. Even as audiences pick up on the more serious subtext, they’re going to find it highly entertaining,” concludes Rowston.

Director: Melita Rowston  Cast: Peter Astridge, Romy Bartz, Ryan Gibson, Terry Karabelas, Alice Livingstone, Ainslie McGlynn, Annie Schofield  Set Designer: Clarisse Ambroselli  Lighting Designer: Richard Whitehouse  Costume Designer: Virag Dozsa  Composer: Regan Van Veen  Assistant Designer: Sasha Perri  Production Manager: Jo Jewitt  Stage Manager: Tom Massey  Assistant Stage Manager: Heymin Jenny Kim  Vocal/Dialect Coach: Helen Tonkin  Production Assistant: Suzie West

Why torture is wrong, and the people who love them
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 3 – 28 June 2014
Bookings: (02) 9519 3403 or online at: www.newtheatre.org.au

For more information, visit: www.newtheatre.org.au for details.

Image: courtesy of New Theatre