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Violence and Son

David Moorst and Jason Hughes in Violence and Son at the Royal Court, London. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Gary Owen’s play about a father’s troubled – and troubling – relationship with his son is sharply observed, often moving and, initially, very funny.

Liam is a smart, articulate teenage boy whose whole life has been upended. His mother has recently died and it has fallen to his estranged father, Rick, a man who the literal-minded locals have nicknamed Violence, to take him in. Rick is not natural father material, but he does appear to be trying to do right by his son, to protect him – and Liam is a huge Doctor Who fan, the kind of boy who proudly sports a fez and a bow tie in public, so he does often require protection.

The quality of all the performances is high, but the interplay between father and son is particularly well handled, their verbal (and physical) sparring laced with more complex emotions. Both Jason Hughes, as the volatile Rick, and David Moorst’s Liam are superb in showing how Liam, despite his wit, looks to his father, particularly when it comes to women.

It’s an assured production in many ways. Designer Cai Dyfan has created an apt arena-like space, ringed by shabby plastic garden chairs, and director Hamish Pirie nails the play’s shifts in tone for the most part. Owen is astute about the way one generation of men can stain the next, how these things can seep down, but what was so subtly expressed earlier on in the play is made brutally, awkwardly explicit in later scenes in a way that is uncomfortable and jarring.

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Verdict
Funny, moving and ultimately very unsettling play about a troubled father-son relationship
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