Theatre Review: Extremities

When a woman at home alone overcomes a would-be rapist, it becomes his word against hers and self-defence turns to torture as the situation spirals out of control.

Presented by Mystique Productions & Tony Knight Acting
Reviewed 23 November 2016

William Mastrosimone’s Extremities is a controversial thriller, presented after far too many years’ absence from the Adelaide stage.

Director Tony Knight has put together this tight thriller for four nights only in honour of White Ribbon Day on Friday this week, which promotes awareness of domestic violence.

Extremities poses many questions, the main one asking how far would you go? When Raul (Adam Touminen) forces his way into the shared farm house of three women (Rachael Wegener, Nikki Elli Souvertjis and Stefanie Rossi), we soon learn he has been stalking them. He has picked his time when only Marjorie is home but his attempted rape backfires when Marjorie gains the upper hand, injuring Raul in the process. With no witnesses, and only Raul getting physically hurt, it’s his word against hers. Raul threatens to come back and kill all of them when his case is thrown out of court and Marjorie suddenly sees no other choice than to take the law, and revenge, into her own hands.

From aiding and abetting to blaming the victim, Marjorie’s house mates return home to this unexpected situation, struggling to comprehend the facts, questioning each other’s morals, and turning on each other as Raul expertly plays them against each other. As the situation spirals from self-defence to torture, each of the women must come to terms with their own fears and presumptions.

Despite the heavy questions posed by Extremities, it is also a play full of dark humour, which is balanced beautifully by Touminen against the viciousness of his character. The three female actors carry their roles with some shining moments for each of them but, as director Tony Knight stated in the Q&A session after the opening night performance, he wants the audience to always remember they’re watching a play. This does, in fact, happen, to the detriment of becoming emotionally involved with the women’s plight.

Knight also changes the ending of Mastrosimone’s script, using a tedious and predictable horror cliché to finish the play instead of the more satisfying ending intended – a decision pre-empted by the use of John Carpenter’s theme to the Halloween horror movie franchise earlier in the play.

Despite some disappointing directorial decisions, Extremities’ impact remains, promoting discussions around the tricky legalities of self-protection and humanity. In a society that often blames the victim rather than risk facing the perpetrator, Extremities may be more relevant today than when it was written in the early 1980s.

With a second Q&A session to be held after the Friday night performance this week, it’s worth a ticket for the thought-provoking themes and the opportunity to discuss the issues with the cast and director.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 23-26 November 2016
Duration: 90 minutes, no interval
Tickets: $39-$59

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