Review: Fury at the Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre15 June 2018
CW: mentions of Islamophobia and violence
Alice and Patrick, a middle-class couple, have raised their son, Joe, with their liberal, open-minded worldview. Or so they think. Then one night, sipping a gin and tonic, they learn the unimaginable: Joe and his friend Evan have vandalised the local mosque.
This is the opening scene of Joanna Murray Smith’s Fury. The play, brought to life in St. Kilda’s quaint Red Stitch Theatre, is alive with emotion and fraught with anger.
Surprisingly, Joe features less prominently in the production than one would imagine. The central focus is on the hysterical and desperate attempts of his parents to explain their son’s actions. Initially, Alice and Patrick load the blame onto Evan, Joe’s accomplice. In one scene, Evan’s father croaks xenophobic remarks about the Muslim community, while his timid wife obligingly nods along. Surely, Evan, influenced by his family, had dragged Joe into committing the crime, Joe’s parents pleadingly ask their son.
Yet as the play progresses, this quick-fix explanation becomes increasingly less convincing. At times, it even seems that Joe’s livid anger has its roots in his mother’s fiery determination, for example. The mounting layers of complexity are underscored by the possibility that Joe will act again, this time damaging more than a holy building.
Fury’s set is overwhelmingly simple. Singular pieces of furniture serve to create the domestic space of a house, a restaurant, or Joe’s headmaster’s office. A rapidly revolving cloth momentarily obscures the stage between scenes, adding to the sense of urgency and panic that the characters radiate.
Within the intimately small theatre, one feels enveloped by Fury’s storm. The play digs into the fracture lines across society’s conscience—immigration, privilege and racism. The characters collide, ideologically and even physically at times, fraying the audience’s nerves. Yet when the curtain falls, one is left with not only a quickly-beating heart, but also, with a new perspective.