of The Dead/Helter Skelter
Written by Neil LaBute
2nd-3rd February 2010
Neil LaBute's trilogy - The Furies, Land of The Dead and Helter Skelter
are three little gems. Like shortshortshort stories, they put life in
a nutshell. Love, loss, death, despair, hope and horror. Everything squeezed
into about thirty minutes with clear, straight forward, simple dialogue.
Simple but not easy. Every word is there because it has to be, every line,
every pause is carefully chosen – at least that is the impression
you get. Maybe LaBute just wrote it as a stream of conscience and it all
came out in one go – it flows anyway.
The dialogues show how brutal and cold, silly and viscous people can
be. How people are in denial and make matters worse when they try to make
things better. How selfish people can be and how one decision can change
your whole life.
The trilogy is about three couples in New York facing different kind
of problems in different circumstances. Three “acts of emotional
terrorism” as the author calls them. Talking about terrorism, Land
of the Dead was written a year after 9/11, but it doesn’t change
the storyline. The husband who just let his wife go to the clinic to have
an abortion all on her own could have been killed in a car crash and not
in the WTC.
The stage was almost bare. No fancy props, just two chairs and one table
– two stories are set in a restaurant. In Land of the Dead there
are no props at all and the actors are standing, telling their account
of the day. This leaves the audience to create their own image of how
the rest of the restaurant looks like or who it felt when they ran round
When Neil LaBute says: “ (...) do the very thing that I always
strive for as a writer: get people laughing, then make that laugh stick
in their throats. It that doesn’t work, immediately kick them in
the stomach. Enjoy. Repeat.", he gives a perfect description of how
it felt to be in the audience. You have to laugh but at the same time
you are shocked about what people can do to other people. Not that one
doesn’t know, but to have it there, presented on stage, ripped out
of a scene of life and put on stage is something different.
The plays are powerful, the actors (Patrick Driver, Frances Grey, John
Harris) simply wonderful and this mixture of strong dialogue and charismatic
acting left the audience amazed.