The sickening cycle of bullying and abuse is central to Evil, an important and compelling work which takes the nub of what makes men try and break one another and dissects it. Not only a foray into the complexity of society and behaviour, the work is taken to remarkable heights with the genteel sophistication and physical wisdom of Jacques de Silva. Scripted for one man, directed around an iron bedstead and desk, the piece contains extreme violence in its words and gestures, and while no real gore is spilled, the potency and the poetry are unrestrained.
Evil is a work which explores the kind of things that happen to a child’s psyche when he is subject to parental abuse, as it takes the character, Eric, through strata of other people’s lies and boarding school regimes where the hierarchy is determined by the rule of fist. It is here where we meet Pierre, Eric’s roomie from the time he enters the school, and it is here where we discover the extremes to which the grown-ups in charge can turn a blind eye in the name of politics.
There are elements to this harrowing tale which conjure up the dynamics at play in William Golding’s 1954 novel The Lord of the Flies, as there are moments which make you think of the to-ing and fro-ing between characters such as Tobias Beecher and Vern Schillinger, in the HBO prison series of the late 1990s, Oz, topping tortures and methods of humiliation with more and more terrible, hate-fuelling ideas. Above all, it follows in the bloody footprints of works such as Brutal Legacy, also staged in this theatre.
De Silva is an actor who has put his talent to specific use, around children’s narratives in particular – you may have last seen him as the Cat in the Hat. And it’s a strange thing: children’s theatre doesn’t always get as much public attention as works constructed with grown-up audiences in mind, and more’s the pity. De Silva is a case in point. He’s easy on the eye and ear, he embraces the nuances and brutalities of the work with his whole body, keeping you in the audience perfectly and irresistibly focused. It is also, however, an easily convertible set and the base simplicity of lighting on stage that drives the impact of the work even further. It’s a must-see – particularly for children in schools where bullying is rife.
- Evil is based on Jan Guillou’s novel Ondskan and adapted for stage by Benny Haag. Translated from Danish by Jens Boutrup, it is directed by Laine Butler and Mike da Silva. Featuring original music by Nik Sakellarides, it is performed by Jaques de Silva and stage managed by Regina Dube at Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton until January 25. Call 011 883-8606.