The Complex, Smithfield, Dublin
Time waits for no man. So when Matty (Jack Walsh) comes out of a coma, temporarily paralysed from a heavy beating, he discovers that his drug-dealing best friend Decko (David Gorey) has become a machine-gun-toting live wire, while his fiancee Niamh (Lacey Moore) is a cocaine-addled mess.
Both have been ruined by the cause and effect of Matty’s attack and both conspire to avenge it by luring Decko’s rival, the Jelly Tott (Keith Ward), to Decko’s plush pad for some unspecified comeuppance. Things don’t go according to plan and all four become embroiled in a tense showdown, which results in a reversal of misfortune, death and redemption.
As the deception, depravity and duplicitous nature of each of the characters is revealed, all the trappings for a suspense-filled evening have been laid in place.
But the execution, on all fronts, lacks the anarchic fire the often far-fetched plotting demands.
The script is one of extremes, which requires tremendous suspensions of belief on the part of the audience, so contrived are the circumstances that occur. But there is a lack of commitment from nearly all involved. They just don’t go with the randomness of the situation.
As each new revelation is made, the atmosphere remains unchanged, with no sense of shock or surprise reverberating through the characters, resulting, ultimately, in a lack of dramatic tension.
The opening exchange between Matty and an unravelling Decko is an expositional rant, with the latter lauding and looping around events that occurred prior to the play. The random and gibbering nature of the conversation, paired with Decko’s lack of awareness that Matty is not interacting with him, suggests a character completely caught up in himself.
As played by Gorey, however, we are given a calm and self-sure portrayal that just doesn’t work with the rhythms of the text.
Staged in the round by director Vanessa Fielding, On the Batter shows the possibilities the venue offers. But the failure to find what makes the characters tick is indicative of a production intent on explosive sparks but unable to find the flint and steel.