The Pervert Laura presents a troubled mind. Then it rips away bloody chunks of would-be sanity to reveal the disturbing soul that has been lurking beneath all along.
Written by Louis Viljoen in the provocative style we have come to expect from him, the language of The Pervert Laura stands out. It is masterful: eloquent and vicious, sharpened by wit, tempered with twisted passion and embossed with poetic flair.
The plot follows Laura (Emily Child), a misfit with a scathing tongue and a temper, through a series of scenes. In each scene she interacts with a different character, and each of these interactions spurs her further towards a dark part of her personality that has not yet been fully realised.
Laura’s therapist (Terry Norton), an extramarital chance encounter (Nicholas Pauling), her sister (Sarah Grace Potter) and her father (Guy De Lancey), each manage to provoke Laura on her journey down a particularly sadistic rabbit hole. The cast is tight, able to navigate the complex narrative landscape. Child brings an air of apathy to her character which lapses and visibly deteriorates, showing unbridled desire and rage. Pauling and De Lancey shine. Pauling’s character is not merely a foil for Laura, but multi-layered and intriguing in his own right. Where Laura is uncaring, Pauling brings passion and pain to his character with a beautiful and true performance. De Lancey is villainous and charming in his role of the father, an articulate megalomaniac, as enigmatic as he is magnetic.
The imagery in the dialogue is explicit and disquieting, sexual acts on stage are raw and tense, animalistic, cold. There is no pretence in The Pervert Laura. There is no love – only obsession. Even the play’s humour has the tang of malice. Viljoen looks at themes of nihilism and lust through a gritty lens and by a harsh, hard light. He uses the curtain to separate scenes and shut the audience out. The result is a macabre study of human self-destruction with elements of existentialism. It’s not a play that leaves you satisfied, nor should it be. It is unsettling and ugly, but beautiful in its composition.
The Pervert Laura runs until 30 May at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town.