The ethics of dramatizing real-world horrors
By Myron My
High school shootings seem to be a distressing regular occurrence of late and remain a touchy subject in film and theatre. In Monologue for a Murderer, Kate Rice uses the tenth anniversary of the 2002 German school massacre in the town of Erfurt as the impetus to tell this story, and whilst the work is nothing new on its own, the intelligent narrative structure and direction makes this play something very different.
Three points of views are explored in Monologue for a Murderer. The events leading up to the school massacre are examined through the eyes of then school principal, Frau Doktor (Kaarin Fairfax), and the eyes of killer, Robert Steinhäuser (Nicholas Denton). Whilst the time jumps are a little unclear and confusing to begin with, things soon settle and the narrative comes together quite well with a highly intense retelling of those final moments.
The third point of view playwright Rice uses is that of her own, played by Kirsty Hillhouse. As Rice – who was in Erfurt for the tenth anniversary – Hillhouse speaks directly to us and gives us some insight into her own personal ethics and inner conflict in creating theatre and entertainment from such a horrific event and her subsequent attempts to pay respect to the lives affected by Steinhäuser.
There are some strong performances from the cast from Hillhouse, and Denton as the troubled young killer. However, the role of Frau Doktor felt miscast with Fairfax unfortunately unable to convey the deep level of grief and responsibility felt. Moreover, Charlie Sturgeon also struggled to convince in any of the characters he portrays, with little discernible differentiation between his roles, even in tone or body language.
A unique script, and apt direction by Jeremy Rice, ensure that Monologue for a Murderer doesn’t present as just another play about another high-school shooting but opens out into a powerful discussion of what theatre can be, for an audience member, an actor and a writer.
Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton
Season: Until 9 November | Wed 6:30pm. Thu-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession