Ballistic review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘fever-pitched performance’

Ballistic. Photo: Tom Packer Ballistic. Photo: Tom Packer
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Inspired by the 107,000-word manifesto of 22 year-old mass-murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in a California shooting spree in 2014, Mini-Mall Theatre’s Ballistic takes you deep into the mind of a killer.

In first-person monologue, Alex Packer’s play tracks Rodger’s growth from a slightly dorky outsider worrying about his first wank, to a nervous college kid unsuccessful with girls, to a bitter mass murderer, brimming with thoughts of malevolence and misogyny.

He feels betrayed by his best friend, alienated by his classmates, humiliated by women, and only able to find solace in first-person shooters and murky online message-boards. But, in Mark Conway’s fever-pitched, lightning-quick performance, he is fundamentally understandable. Likeable, even, at first.

The emphasis of Anna Marsland’s production should be on this. On understanding Rodger, not alienating him, so we can better safeguard against the radicalisation of young men as a society.

But as Ballistic progresses, and Frances Roughton’s pixelated set, Peter Tomes’ stark lighting and Packer’s pulsating sound combine to underscore an atmosphere of mounting, morbid dread, it shifts from an investigation into the reasons behind Rodger’s appalling crimes into a sensationalist, almost celebratory, recounting of them. From a show focused on helping, to one focused on horrifying.

A darkly thrilling but disappointingly sensationalist portrait of a misogynist mass shooter