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Review: Ballistic, at King’s Head Theatre

One-man show written by Alex Packer explores toxic masculinity and issues behind extreme acts of violence

08 March, 2018 — By Billie Manning

Mark Conway in Ballistic. Photo: Tom Packer

INSPIRED by the manifesto of American mass murderer Elliot Rodger, this one-man show written by Alex Packer follows one man’s life from the age of 12 up until university, and looks into the issues behind the extreme acts of violence that pepper 21st-century news.

Though gun violence is not the issue in the UK that it is in the US, the exploration of toxic masculinity in the play is topical and necessary. The teenage protagonist (Mark Conway) is confused and disturbed by many of his experiences growing up, but feels unable to talk to anyone about it. The threat of the dark pockets of the internet where harmful, sexist cultures capitalise on the confusion and anger of young men like him is particularly urgent and new.

Conway is gripping both as an awkward pre-teen trying to masturbate for the first time, and as a rage-fuelled student ready to commit an atrocious act, often managing to be very funny and deeply saddening at the same time. The thoroughly modern allegory of the puzzle game Tetris is used to represent his mental state, and we are privy to it via the use of a very clever design and lighting combination by Frances Roughton and Peter Tomes respectively.

It is hard to show the wider culture at play and its influence in such a short time, resulting occasionally in over-simplification of the issues, but the message of the play is received loud and clear: something has to change, before the blocks fill up the screen and – boom.

0207 226 8561


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