I should start by saying that Pity, Rory Mullarkey’s outlandish new play for the Royal Court, almost defies description – and what can be said about it might spoil some of its many surprises. If you’re keen to go in completely blind, look away now!
It starts with a tombola
Audience members are handed free raffle tickets as they make their way across the stage to find their seats (yes, a rather unorthodox system of entrance), with the chance to win a suspect-looking ‘party bag’. This opening gimmick brilliantly sets the scene for the madness to follow…
There’s a brass band
Members of the esteemed Fulham Brass Band are on hand to play the audience in, and continue to pop up throughout the play, often with darkly comic effect. The cheery pageantry of their uniforms and shining golden instruments throws the play’s most violent, garish and gruesome moments into sharp relief.
If you always wondered what fully-operational (if slightly scaled down) army tanks look like ploughing across the stage of the Royal Court, now’s your chance to find out!
The Song-and-dance numbers
Somewhere in the middle of the play, the Prime Minister, arrived for a press conference, unexpectedly throws down her handbag for a rousing, high-kicking anthem about the difficulty of choosing a sandwich filling – backed with great energy by the rest of the cast. Towards the end, performers gather at the front of the stage for a haunting choral refrain. There are several other unexpected musical moments, all fabulously electrifying if completely incongruous…
The rest is a secret
I won’t say any more for fear of giving away too much of the insanity in store, but if you’re game for an 100-minute thrill ride of rollicking, gory, lurid, hilarious, dark theatrical madness, go and see Pity – at the Royal Court until 11 August.