Armadillo at Yard Theatre
US gun culture isn’t exactly a thing that easily translates over here, as is the incomprehensibility of that violent circus. Fear, trauma and addiction are far more universal themes, however, meaning Sarah Kosar can use America’s sidearm obsession to straddle the literal and metaphorical in Armadillo.
Sam (Michelle Fox) was once taken. But she was lucky, rescued by a gun-toting neighbour. Years later and another name has been added to the long list of disappeared teenage girls: Jessica. The news is a gaudy vigil, social media a cesspool of speculation (Ash J Woodward’s video projections are maybe the best part of the play).
Memories from Sam’s past are dredged up, exacerbated by the return of her wayward brother (Nima Taleghani). So, it couldn’t be a worse time to try and wean herself off her gun habit, a necessary step given the bloody accident between her and her husband (Mark Quartley).
Kosar isn’t coy in her depiction of this uniquely American addiction. The characters are all visibly jonesing for the heavy danger of their weapons. Toy guns act as a kind of nicotine patch – there are even three Nerf guns displayed like flying geese on the back wall. A cold, hard Glock leads to a stiff, hard … you get the idea.
If this was it, then Armadillo wouldn’t be much to write home about. However, the playwright wants to dig into the why, using Sam’s past trauma as a partial explanation for her cravings. The gun isn’t only a safety blanket; it’s a tool of power, an unhealthy way for her to reassert what was taken from her as a child.
This is complicated further by Sam’s reaction to the disappearance of Jessica. Not only is it haunting, but it also sparks a dark kind of jealousy – over the attention the new girl has attracted, about what her captor may have done to her body – rooted in the psychological damage and doubt caused by her own abduction. All of this is strung together by moments of hip abstraction and marital unrest, making what should feel tight and hyper sluggish and murky (it can be a slow 80 minutes).
For better or worse, Sara Joyce’s production really gets under your skin. Its sound and lighting design are purposefully grating, with blasts of noise and flicking neons, while the constant threat of gunshot – there’s a Chekhov’s armoury worth of weapons introduced at one point – means it’s hard to relax. It’s itchy and antsy and paranoid, a fug of unease brought to life by a trio of strong performances from Fox, Taleghani and Quartley.
Photos: Maurizio Martorana
Armadillo is at Yard Theatre from 30th May until 22nd June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.