Theatre Review: Mortido


Presented by State Theatre Company
Reviewed 21 October 2015

Woven through bleak humour, brash Aussie accents and instinctive cock-fights, this destructive play reveals a cynical portrait of the city where dreams are broken.

This revenge tragedy is certainly one to behold. Opening with a sole Colin Friels centre stage, aglow in the darkness under a spotlight, with only a piñata for his friend. The arrowhead space is set for a gruelling and gritty epic in the truly horrifying Sydney suburbs.

From the regaling of a Mexican fable, told ominously into the open theatre and warning of death, greed and Coca Cola, to the self-destruction of Sydney’s upper-class, this shattering performance paints a painfully real picture of modern intoxication.

This thrilling and ambitious crime play builds upon its stellar acting and profound script to explode in a truthfully killer desire, with a sophisticated four-act structure fulfilling a hellish cycle of life.

 Angela Betzien’s Mortido, or Freud’s death drive, is propelled by cocaine, a drug of “image, individualism, sex, greed, lies and short-term gain”. Down this metaphorical Road of Death from Bolivia to Sydney, TAFE student Jimmy follows his Uncle Monte (Renato Musolino) into the web of drug-dealing and superficial glory.

Friels’ soliloquy throws him into a remarkable performance of vastly divergent characters, with the rough Detective Grubbe, Aus-Greek Christos and German king-pin The Butcher. All the while, Friels gives the echo of subconscious for the morally confused centre-piece and mule, Jimmy. Tom Conroy perfectly delivers the desolate confusion of a post-junkie Jimmy, being haunted back into a life of ‘affluenza’, the seductive disease of a blind society of excessive consumption.

Designer Geoff Cobham provides light in the seedy underworld of Betzien’s imagination. In this inescapable purgatory, these gluttonous characters roam as the dark set reflects the themes where haunting dreamscape is shocked into harsh reality.

In an age saturated with crime dramas, Mortido’s minimalist approach maintains the details of each setting, soaked with atmosphere. Bright spark Oliver/Alvaro (Matt Goldwyn) paired with El Gallito (David Valencia) hover pervasively behind red-lit mirrors, embodying the casts’ guilt, which can only climax in a bloody implosion.

This serious play is littered with dark comedy, and powerful performances which swiftly illustrate the parallel worlds and consequences of fuelling the rich white man’s recreation. Leaving answers for the audience’s imagination, Betzien challenges in her most ambitious creation yet.

Is the death drive in all of us, linked with our own self-preservation? Mortido fiercely questions this nightmare and the drug of always wanting more.

 Reviewed by Hannah Lally

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse  Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 20 – 31 October 2015
Duration: 2 hours 20 min
Tickets: $31.00 – $58.00



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