It speaks volumes of the tumultuous times in which we live that so many new plays are set in dystopian near-futures that are merely heightened versions of our own present.
This twisting two-hander by relative newcomer Mari Izzard firmly captures the zeitgeist, then binds it in chains and smears it in blood.
Hela is the climax of the Other Room’s Violence season, a bilingual play (in Welsh and English) that explores whether violent retribution can perhaps be justified in a corrupt society that turns a blind eye to the worst evil.
Hugh (Gwydion Rhys) is a bright, educated young man – the son of the First Minister – who finds himself chained up in a cell that appears to be presided over by a creepy Alexa-like figure. The appearance of Erin (Lowri Izzard) – prisoner or captor? – brings some hope, and certainly some humour, though Mari Izzard’s darkly funny script soon lustily jerks our perceptions as we question the characters’ motives and also what kind of play we’re viewing.
Laughter in the audience soon becomes stifled, as each revelation places us on a more precarious footing. Rhys and Lowri Izzard freely toy with our emotions until the big reveal.
It’s a technologically complex show with an extraordinary design by Delyth Evans and Katy Morrison, yet Dan Jones directs with enough lightness to retain its humanity.
Mari Izzard’s play leans a little heavily on TV series Black Mirror but throws up many sophisticated new questions with a razor-sharp wit that promises much for the (hopefully less dystopian) future.