Martin Murphy’s Victim conveys the monotony of prison life, a narrative that highlights the ease at which being an inmate can dull the senses.

Day after day in prison, the same old routine – same jokes, same stories for years and years. Martin Murphy’s Victim conveys the monotony of prison life, a narrative that runs around itself and highlights the ease at which being an inmate can dull the senses as you become comfortable and lazy. It happens to the guards too – the one little mistake that Tracey makes in front of beady-eyed lifer Siobhan results in an unthinkable, yet all too common, prison event.

Louise Beresford’s one-woman performance effortlessly transitions between characters, distinguished by both physical confidence and accent. She epitomises a chameleon style of acting, capable of delivering dry wit in one sentence and earnest hopelessness with the other. Beresford is fearless in her portrayal of Siobhan in particular – the emotionless, cunning sociopath who is more than assured enough to stare you straight in the eye and psychoanalyse your very soul.

The Victim is A23174, a murderous celebrity whose story is more important than her identity. It’s the mystery around which both narratives loosely centre, although each is too lax to pick up any sense of pace or urgency even when events climax at the play’s end. Murphy has written in this style before – Victim feels distinctly comparable to Bruised Sky Productions’ previous work, Villain. The character at the eye of the storm, in which the narrative tornado swirls around, is rarely referred to, preferring instead for those on the outside to present their opinions.

Victim King's Head Theatre

Louise Beresford

The difference between these two pieces is that Villain’s narrative was clarified in one single perspective, where Victim is muddied by two sporadic stories that rarely overlap and confusingly converge. Murphy’s story here feels less like a tornado and more like a bluster – anti-climactic and stagnating in its anecdotes. It lacks impact, drive or intent with Tracey’s accounts, and Siobhan’s musings do little to steer the tale back to its final destination. This narrative aimlessly meanders.

There are points where Victim coalesces, the rare junctions at which both monologues exchange and overlap. This is where the power play and the show’s intrigue lies, an imbalanced truce between prison guard and inmate where we get to experience some of the shifting power dynamic that seesaws unevenly between them. Unfortunately, Victim accelerates too quickly towards an expositional ending that needs some further dramaturgical development to ensure that its double perspective stays on track.

The central storyline to Victim is just about visible through the sketches that its narrators provide. But this production lacks the realisation that it intends to present. The ending is unsatisfactorily unresolved and as such lacks weight – given that the climactic event is where the production drives sporadically towards, Victim falls flat.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

Victim runs at King’s Head Theatre until 21 April 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.