As part of their Nordic Noir season, La Mama presents the Australian premiere of a haunting thriller, Courage To Kill,  from Sweden’s most acclaimed playwright, Lars Noren. Perhaps not a staple here, Noren has been quite prolific with work since 1963 (having written over 50 plays) which have been performed predominately in Europe.. His themes are family relationships and dysfunctionality  and, for director Richard Murphet,  Courage to Kill’s central theme is family relationship and that is something we all share, like it or not.

Murphet acknowledges that Noren is hardly known in the English speaking world but it is wonderful to have the chance to bring one of his major plays to an Australian audience.

“His more recent works have been about social and political prejudice in Sweden but Courage to Kill is from his earlier period in which family dramas predominated,” Murphet explains. ” It is especially fitting that the show should go on at La Mama: Noren, who also directs his own work, hates large spaces for his theatre. ‘“I want audiences to share the same space as the actors,” he says, ‘“I want small rooms.”  We have converted the La Mama space into a room fit for the tense father-son battle that takes place.”

Noren is known for his realistic, no holds barred style of writing which is something Murphet strongly admires. “The writing is bitingly real, as a Swedish actor said, “It is like me murmuring myself.” And yes the ongoing brutal issue of domestic violence is forefront in the play. But it does not skim swiftly over the complexities of this issue and reduce them to clichés.,” says Murphet. “Lars Noren cares about all three characters involved: they are him and his family and they are each of us and variations of our relations with our own family.”

Murphet has been involved in the theatrical landscape for 40 years and has taught directing, performance making, acting and writing at the Victorian College of the Arts since the 1990s.  He was Head of the Theatre School between 2007-2009 and Head of Postgraduate Studies from 1996 to 2006. He is currently an Honorary Lecturer in Performing Arts. He is a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, researching writing and directing in late-modernist theatre.

Courage to Kill Image Landscape

His involvement with young creative minds is lengthy so Murphet was excited to have his attention drawn to Courage to Kill by one of the actors in it, Luke Mulquiney.

“As a director, it’s a wonderful bonus to have an actor proposing a play, and his interest in it says a lot about the power of the characters who people Courage to Kill,” says Murphet. “This is one of the most thorough-going exposes of a father-son relationship I have ever come across. It is filled with tension and emotion, but constantly surprises us with its absurd humour and shifts in mood, even as it moves towards its tragic climax. It is tough and challenging, but filled with simple human qualities drawn from the experience of a man who has suffered.”

Courage to Kill, offers Murphet,  is about ordinary people, as extraordinary as people normally are.

“As an audience you have the time to spend with these three people; the father, the son and the son’s girlfriend, over one night and the following morning. We watch as the suspense builds, and each character tries with humour and desperation and bloody-mindedness to find ways out of the minefield they are trapped in. This is a play about courage: the courage to face one another in naked truth and to face our own failings and vulnerabilities. It will not be a play easy to forget. It is a play about our human selves, and our need for humanity with one another.”

July 6 – 17