In James Topham’s production of Violent Acts, a wealth of suppression simmers just below the surface and violence speaks volumes. The ADC were brave to risk putting on new writing as a mainshow, but the gamble has certainly paid off. Topham and Hall’s dialogue is fresh, raw and dynamic, reflecting the devising process which led to its birth. Some actors seem to own their lines to a degree which is surely only possible in a play created through improvisation, as Hall himself said, “we used the actors as our muses, our canvas”.
The show revolves around the intertwined lives and loves of eight characters over the space of one day. Through short, sharp, episodic scenes Topham and Hall’s text sets out to explore the gossamer threads which bind the characters together; effect becomes cause as time is splintered and the victims of violence become the perpetrators.

Emma Hiddleston (Amy) and Patrick Warner (Leonard) bring life to their characters, playing off each other to present us with a relationship empty of love or respect. Molly Goyer-Gorman so effortlessly portrays the character of Kirsten that it is a shame her role is not more central to the plot. Rebecca Greig’s Harriet, however, falls into the trap of caricature; a problem which is not helped by Greig’s dubious costume, constituting a huge hat which covers her face during her entire first appearance and an ill-fitting jacket.

Whilst the writing itself is alive in its exploration of ambiguities, the structure of the play leaves something to be desired. Short snapshots are presented in a seemingly random order and though this confused chronology is extremely successful in drawing the audience into the action, the tenuous links established between scenes seem to be superfluous. The character of Rachael, for example, appears to serve no purpose other than to avoid the artificiality of monologues: through innumerable pry ing questions (“Are you a soldier?”, “What do you do?” “Do you want to talk about it?”) each principal character is introduced to us in turn. As a result, the scenes in which Rachael features stick out as artificial and staged in a production which is otherwise naturalistic.

Violent Acts is an incredibly satisfying play to watch: Topham and Hall withhold and release information, tantalising the audience. Complex and teasing though the plot is, this is a production that will truly reward your attention.

Four Stars

Elizabeth Davis