“Violence And Son” at the Golden Goose Theatre in London is a goosebump-inducing narrative that delves into the intricacies of family, grief, and the profound connections that linger beneath the surface. This 2.5 hour-long production confronts sensitive subjects that warrant a comprehensive trigger warning list (make sure to read it before you enter the auditorium!). It’s a raw and thought-provoking exploration of family, trauma and consent, making it a worthwhile proposition for theatre enthusiasts looking for an experience on the emotionally-heavier side. But you will be treated to some lighter, comedic side here too – in some very unexpected moments.
“Violence And Son” weaves a compelling narrative centred around Liam, a seventeen-year-old boy who adores “Doctor Who” and is grappling with the recent loss of his mother to cancer. When circumstances force Liam to move in with his estranged father, the enigmatic and ominously nicknamed ‘Violence,’ in the remote Valleys of Wales, it sets the stage for a riveting exploration of family dynamics. Liam begins to coexist with his father, his father’s girlfriend, and his love interest, in a small, full-of-tension household. In the meantime, Liam’s romance starts to bloom and the first sexual encounter ends up not looking as innocent as it seemed. A big conversation about sexual consent starts, while police may already be on their way to arrest Liam…
A Slow-Burning Start with Explosive Impact
From the very beginning, “Violence And Son” captivates with its slow-burning first act. Instead of resorting to lengthy exposition, the play lets you naturally immerse yourself in the lives of its characters. Plus, if you’re a “Doctor Who” fan, you’re in for a treat as the first act is sprinkled with references to the beloved series, adding an extra layer of connection for fans.
The theme of grief looms large as Liam copes with the recent loss of his mother, hiding his pain beneath a façade of normalcy. The first act’s realistic dialogue and awkward, unplanned encounters drew me in, and kept eagerly awaiting a climactic moment. And when that moment finally arrived, it was explosive, with fake blood, flying tables, and scattered beer cans.
Diving into the Depths: A Tale of Two Acts
Throughout the first act, the family dynamics appear separate, with Liam desperately trying to distance himself emotionally from his father, recognising his flaws and striving to be different.
The second act takes a sharp turn, shifting the atmosphere and theme dramatically. As the story unfolds, Liam’s calm and reasonable demeanour in the face of piling stress and attacks, takes an unexpected twist. We’re thrust into the uncomfortable territory of miscommunication and the violation of consent within a sexual relationship. It’s here that the show’s cards are laid bare, leaving the audience to piece together the motivations and actions of the characters.
A standout moment in the second act is the seemingly out-of-the-blue slow-motion dance sequence at the beginning. A rare glimpse into the physical and intimate connection between “Violence” and his son was so shocking and beautiful at the same time that I wished to see more of it.
A Cast that Leaves a Lasting Impression
Henry Andrews does a fantastic job embodying Liam’s mix of teenage awkwardness budding romance, and the profound sense of grief and isolation. His radiating love for Dr Who adds to the character’s relatability, but also builds an additional layer of surprise as Andrews develops his character into a much darker one in the second act.
Lawrence Carmichael as Violence exudes a perpetual aura of threat, keeping viewers constantly intrigued (and ducking for flying beer cans). Lyndsey Ruiz, portraying Jen, skilfully portrays the caution of a young woman navigating a domestic minefield that she unknowingly jumped in, while Anna Hawkes breathes life into the sharp yet maternal character of Suze, showcasing her versatility as an actor.
As the play hurtles toward its conclusion, the lines between good and bad blur and the story spirals into a bleak realm. “Violence And Son” doesn’t offer a hopeful resolution for the fractured family, but it leaves the audience with a haunting image of father and son, embracing on a sofa, a moment that lingered in my mind long after leaving the Golden Goose Theatre.
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show
Violence and Son by Fricative Theatre
Golden Goose Theatre – click here to book
29th August – 9th September
Run Time: approx. 2 hours 30 minutes incl. intermission
Content Advisory: Alcohol abuse, domestic violence, offensive language, use of ableist slur and homophobic language, discussions of sexual assault and references to terminal illness, death, abortion, and suicide.