It's time for my review of Downstate.
In downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where they live out their lives in the shadow of the offences they committed. A man shows up to confront his childhood abuser — but does he want closure or retribution?
The quality of writing in Downstate, by Bruce Norris, is utterly superlative. The play deals with an exceedingly difficult subject matter, and one which would likely make a lot of people feel rather uncomfortable. Despite this, Norris tackles the issue head-on and deals with it masterfully. The play goes into great depths, analysing the thoughts and feelings of those that have committed sex crimes against minors. What I found particularly interesting was the presentation of the leading characters. Instead of playing into the stereotype of a convict, Norris portrays the four sex offenders as being somewhat ordinary men. This is an exceedingly interesting concept, as it plays into the idea that even those who appear innocent can still be responsible for atrocities. The play explores the minds of the sex offenders, with all four characters presenting differing viewpoints on the crimes that they have committed. Each character within the play is well-developed, and they all have fascinating personalities. Some of the themes explored by Norris include human empathy, guilt, punishment and revenge. The exploration of these topics is intriguing, and certainly causes the audience to pause for thought. Another aspect of writing that Norris excels at is the way in which he toys with the emotions of his audience. At times, we will feel disgusted by the actions of the characters, and yet at other times we will feel sympathy. Downstate wreaks havoc on our emotions, and the way it does so is ingenious.
The cast of Downstate are truly outstanding; I was in awe of their talent. It is one of the strongest casts I have seen for quite some time, and there was not a single weak link. They each bring something different to the play, and by working together they all created an excellent dynamic. Every actor provided a well-layered characterisation, resulting in performances that can only be described as flawless. The quality of acting within Downstate cannot be overstressed; it is not possible to praise this cast enough. As an audience member, I felt hooked on their every word.
Now for my final verdict on Downstate. I give Downstate...
Downstate expertly deals with an extremely difficult subject matter, with Norris exploring a range of very interesting themes. Additionally, the cast are first-rate, with outstanding performances from all. Sadly, Downstate has now closed, but hopefully we will see it return to London's West End at some point within the future.
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Thanks for reading!