Random Acts of Malice is an exciting psychological thriller, directed by Lewis Fraser and produced by Alfie Howard. It focuses on the devoutly religious Petrie family over the course of one evening, when Hal Devereaux (Ejiro Imiruaye), a visiting American geologist, arrives at their house and plunges their life into catastrophe, murdering Hannah Petrie (Chloe Arrowsmith) and Larissa Petrie (Molly Anderson). They do so in order to challenge the very foundations of Reverend James Petrie’s faith (Alec Sims) and prove that nothing matters or makes sense, that the course of life is random, unjust and that God actually has no plan for us, summed up in the line, ‘there is not justice, only the moment’.
The stage was cleverly designed and effective, set in the well lived-in dining room of the Petrie family, which created a feeling of intimacy with the audience, as if we were there in the house with them, which heightened our feelings of tenseness and created an unnerving atmosphere. Moreover, the storm that bellows outside and each crash of thunder was perfectly timed to enhance the tension felt by the audience.
The acting of Chloe, Molly and Alec was very strong and the family dynamics felt very natural and affectionate. Furthermore, their character’s responses to the shocking murders of first Hannah, and then Larissa, are believable, which is impressive and commendable given the very serious and catastrophic subject matter, which could otherwise be overwhelming for a student play.
I also enjoyed the creativity with which the thought processes of both Hal and Alec were expressed; the sudden dimming of the lights and voice-overs effectively produced an ominous and threatening air, which really gripped and intrigued the audience.
Ejiro Imiruaye, who played Hal Devereaux, was particularly impressive. The accent was convincing rather than distracting, and his sudden outburst in the first half was immediately effective at heightening our suspicions. Ejiro’s portrayal successfully unnerved the audience. Furthermore, the development of his character and his internal turmoil was acted brilliantly and convincingly; both the writing and the acting succeeded in creating a menacing and manipulative individual that captured the imaginations of the audience and made for a gripping and thrilling performance.
The play’s central theme - what is the meaning/motivation of life? Is life purely random and in that case, is there no grand/divine plan for us? Is life unjust and nothing matters, even faith, because there is only the moment? – was fascinating and thought provoking, if somewhat overly repeated.
At times the direction of Alec and Ejiro in the second half felt slightly stagnant. The stage direction of Alec on his knees with Ejiro pointing the barrel of a gun to his head felt too long and slightly static; the second half made less effective use of stage space. This risked the play losing momentum and suspense.
Overall, Random Acts of Malice was an intense and provocative play that was creative and engaging in its production and direction. The premise was stimulating; despite at times losing some momentum, and the acting was impressively believable given the extreme and intense content.
All in all, a captivating and thrilling performance!
Photo credits to Abby Swain for this article's cover image.