Lyttelton Arts Factory, Lyttelton

18/04/2017 - 29/04/2017

Production Details

Written by Tony Geddes
Directed by Mike Friend

2Graves is a gripping piece of contemporary verse which explores the terrifying dangers of violence and revenge.

Bobby Tops is riding on the crest of a wave, poised to take the crown at the 1978 World Professional Darts Championship. Only now he’s dead. His son Jack seeks his revenge on those he believes are responsible for his father’s downfall – and we’re with him every step of the way as life turns him from adoring son to hard-bitten criminal.

Lyttelton Arts Factory (LAF), Oxford Street, Lyttelton, Christchurch
18th to 29th April 2017, 8pm
(no show Monday 24th)
Booking office : www.laf.co.nz  

Actor: Tom Trevella

Theatre , Solo ,

A satisfying character-driven account of revenge

Review by Erin Harrington 19th Apr 2017

2Graves is a powerful and enthralling account of family honour, violence and revenge. In an 80 minute monologue delivered in rhyming verse, East End criminal Jack Tops leads us through his transformation from a loving young boy to a hardened gangland mogul hell-bent on paying back the men who wrecked his father’s life.

It all starts in 1978 when Jack’s father Bobby Tops, a man so good at darts that he might drag his family out of poverty, suffers a series of humiliating setbacks that eventually lead to depression, underworld debts and untimely death. Jack, who is drawn into the black hole of criminality, takes it on himself to rectify the callous dishonour visited upon his family and, in doing so, becomes utterly consumed by his need for retribution.

2Graves, directed by Mike Friend, is an intelligently designed and staged production that is unafraid to make interesting use of empty space. The show is a terrific vehicle for actor Tom Trevella, one that offers him the opportunity to both play to his strengths and demonstrate some serious skill, especially in his vocal and dialect work. He offers a controlled, charismatic and absorbing performance that balances the darkness of Jack’s story with wry, pointed flickers of humour.

Trevella prowls through memory lane, re-enacting key moments (most entertainingly, a doomed horse race), acting as both present-day narrator and a man increasingly trapped by the sticky web of his past.

Tony Geddes’ sparse set design plays beautifully with order and chaos: the bare centre of the stage offers a site of personal and psychological isolation, be it a physical jail cell or the space of intense concentration inhabited by the darts players, while the rest of the space is littered with the grimy detritus of uncertain lives and tattered dreams.

Michael Carlton’s sympathetic, responsive lighting and Darryl Cribb’s sometimes hallucinatory sound design work to intertwine Jack’s present state of mind with the spaces and emotions of days gone by.

The poetic nature of the script can’t help but recall dramatist Steven Berkoff’s work, and there is a fitting circularity in this; this show is co-produced by Top Dog Productions and that company’s first show, back in 2003, was a very good production of Berkoff’s gangland drama West, in which Trevella took a leading role.

However, where Berkoff’s verse braids together Shakespearean lyricism, Cockney argot and epic poetry, Paul Sellar’s script uses the metre and rhyme schemes of folk song and pub ballad to add momentum to this vengeful race to the bottom, knotting its narrative strands together in a morality play that’s tempered with a fair amount of Guy Ritchie-infused schadenfreude.

This means that deeper issues about working class masculinity, identity, cycles of poverty and the merciless pull of the shadow economy are touched upon but not explored in thematic depth. Instead, the play offers a satisfying character-driven account of how one man, in his need to balance the scales tit for tat, becomes the exact thing that destroyed his own family.

Revenge, here, is most definitely not a life well-lived, but it makes for a bloody good show. 


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