Mortido | State Theatre Company of South AustraliaLeft – Colin Friels and Tom Conroy. Cover – Renato Musolino and Tom Conroy. Photos – Shane Reid

Sigmund Freud believed that “the aim of all life is death...” he called this theory the death instinct or Mortido. 

Angela Betzien’s new play, Mortido, explores the destructive nature of the death instinct without tempering it with the life instincts. The multi-award winning playwright takes the audience into the seedy underbelly of narcotics; pedlars and users, in a hurried jaunt from Mexican squalor to Sydney harbour; from Berlin nightclubs, to the malls of Cabramatta and a Nazi hideaway in the interior of Bolivia. 

With its ambitious mix of locations, styles, sermonising, and genres, the play could easily collapse into a disjointed hotchpotch. But, affecting performances from a superb cast, and a genuinely appealing performance from Colin Friels, ensures a thought-provoking, piquant and entertaining production. 

Strictly, it a retribution crime thriller, and an allegorical drama, that follows a predictable narrative arc, which has enough quirks – and controlling presentations of unsympathetic narcissistic characters – to make the play richly dramatic.

Jimmy (Tom Conroy) is a petty drug pusher and his brother-in-law Monte (Renato Musolino) is an intermediate dealer. They both want the good life, and to protect Jimmy’s sister, Scarlet (Louisa Mignone) and her son Oliver (Matt Goldwyn). But when Monte begins to trade on his own, his life begins to fall apart. Detective Grubbe (Colin Friels), wants one last big bust before he retires, and he sees Jimmy and Monte as dispensable stepping stones to his goal. Once a body is found floating in the harbour, none of the characters will remain undamaged.

Mortido’s compulsive blend of genres – parable, mysticism, thriller, and psychodrama – holds the play together. But, it’s the intellectual examination of unfulfilled desire, and death, which gives the players the depth and nuance they require to provide superb performances. The result is a potent, edgy and electrifying theatrical experience that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.

State Theatre Company of South Australia and Belvoir present
by Angela Betzien

Director Leticia Cáceres

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: 16 – 31 Oct, 2015

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