Making a Killing

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

18/11/2011 - 26/11/2011

Production Details

“Destroy the competition and take what’s theirs!”  

Making A Killing, a new play by Ben Van Lier, is a vicious, satirical black-comedy which takes aim at a world of gluttonous governments, corrupt corporations and bandit bankers.

Dave, Gary and Justin all work in high finance. Gordon Gekko ain’t got nothing on them. They’re ruthless, smart and place profit over everything… they’re also great friends. They’re out of town for a conference and their traditional game of high stakes, Monopoly… except its not quite Monopoly!

Petey is Dave’s new assistant. He’s just about to the reach the end of his 90 day trial period and Dave needs to truly test Petey out before he decides whether to keep him on or let him go. Now Petey has to join the game and finds himself playing not only for thousands of dollars, but his career too. Win the game, he wins big. Lose the game, and he goes home empty handed and unemployed.

Murder, manipulation and a monkey suit …
Making A Killing!

Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre  
18-26th November 

Ben Van Lier
Jonathan Hodge
Andrew Ford
Jess Joy Wood
Carl Dixon

Farce with potential aplenty

Review by Janet McAllister 22nd Nov 2011

This farce in American Psycho territory has a great premise: a personalised Monopoly game between old friends – scoundrel merchant bankers who know where all the bodies are buried. The stakes are high – everyone has put $250,000 into the pot – but they’re not going to let that get in the way of drinking, snorting and paying for sex.

However, the script needs more polish to sharpen the satire and tighten some flab, while the production could have incorporated more slapstick. For loud misogynists in a brothel, their body language was remarkably unsleazy. [More


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Zany, convoluted, black comedy thriller

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Nov 2011

Catalyst Theatre’s latest original production is a fairly ambitious piece set in the cutthroat, larcenous world of high finance (read ‘corporate piracy’). 

Jonathan Hodge is Dave, a ruthless executive with a dangerously supercilious air of authority who has brought his wide-eyed and enthusiastic young assistant Peter (a la the babyfaced naivety of Carl Dixon) to the hotel of the respected and feared capitalist kingpin known and feared by all as Mr Hendrix. 

Ostensibly there for a high finance business conference, the recently employed Peter (not ‘Petey’!) has completed his ninety day trial period, and Dave has a sort of test planned to decide whether to take him on permanently. 

Pete and Dave are joined by fellow bad-ass racketeers, the married and grey suit-clad financier Gary (Andrew Ford), whose solitary purpose in life is to achieve maximum profits and ego gratification by the most efficient means possible, and bungling pervert Justin (Ben Van Lier), evidently the least psychologically stable. 

The well-turned out band of thieves bet high stakes on the outcome of Gary’s customised Monopoly game ‘Garopoly’, where the streets are companies, the Chance card scenarios are based on their real-life experiences, and the money has his face in the watermark. 

As with any given game of Monopoly, frustrations and incriminations rise to volatile levels of tension.  All the illicit comforts of gangster living are laid on in this classy establishment, namely class A narcotics and women, with the compliments of hostess Michelle, played with attractively haughty composure and class by Jessica Joy Wood.  But it’s when they take a break from the game to indulge in pleasures of the flesh that the real crisis emerges… 

Designer Kate Burton’s upmarket hotel room set has a plush cosy elegance to it, the split-level lounge and bar/dining areas are offset by the foreboding presence of three large sheets of rusted iron hanging behind.  The carpet and decor has a slightly worn look about it, suggesting either the timelessness of the Mafioso-style establishment or perhaps budget constraints affording less sterile furnishings. 

In his directorial debut, Sam Berkely works Van Lier’s pointed script into a somewhat broad comedic style bordering on slapstick, replete with double takes and the snappy comebacks of ruthless psychopaths. 

Overall the performances are entertainingly well-pitched, competent with some apparent opening-night nervous tension and an occasional flubbed line.  Unnecessary labouring and repetition of key motivations and plot points do cause the action to drag at times.  With some judicious editing, the play might achieve more in sixty minutes than it does in eighty.  

The nihilistic conclusion is not the punch in the stomach it ought to be, and certain credibility issues raise a few questions which can possibly be dealt with by recognising that the story isn’t really that realistic, therefore it must be making a salient point.  The clearest message I can extract from it is: when dabbling in the bleak, harsh, dog-eat-dog brutality of high-end white-collar crime you’re likely to be fucked over whichever choices you make… Not exactly anything new there. 

What is essentially played as a zany, convoluted, black comedy thriller with an unsettling surprise twist or three, has the potential to read alternatively like a bleak Pinter-esque essay on the darker side of the human condition.  With at least half the proselytising and exposition removed and the roles given a more concentrated internal realism, rather than the broad stereotypes presented here, Making a Killing could achieve a real visceral impact that is curiously lacking as it is, given the uncompromisingly grisly content. 

Conceivably, the indifference we share with the play’s ruthless corporate sociopaths might actually be the point.

As it stands this premier work seems more a template of sorts, requiring a more committed attitude in going deeper into the characters, thus providing them a stronger connection with the audience. 

Meanwhile, have a good laugh at the expense of fiscal equality and basic human rights. 


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