Dir. Zinnie Harris, Tron Theatre, 16th – 19th May
Gut is perhaps the most genuinely frightening piece of theatre I have seen in a while. A young boy is suspected of having been the victim of a sex crime, which eventually pales in comparison to the lengths a mother will go to in order to teach her son the meaning of stranger danger. The audience becomes the judge of a morality play – how far is too far when it comes to the safety and happiness of our children?
Despite being amongst the youngest in the audience, the instinctive fear inspired by the strangers in the play caught me off guard, and it was a fear I shared with the young parents in the play. It seems that this fear is not universal, however – the grandmother of the young boy sees no problem with allowing a kindly/malicious man accompany him to the bathroom while she pays for their meals. This difference in interpretations can be somewhat explained by societal shifts. ‘Free range parenting’ has become an incredibly contentious modern issue, despite being the standard method of child rearing for the very generation that coddles their children so relentlessly.
The play also provokes the debate of the difference between the mother and father roles. The father is able to put aside his creeping doubt once he has supposedly confirmed by his own rubric that nothing happened with the stranger in the bathroom. The mother, however, is consumed by her paranoia to the point of committing acts more cruel than any stranger could have done, under the guise of protection. Any number of think pieces have been published on the changing role of motherhood, but Gut bravely tackles more nuanced questions – the mother is demonised for her crimes while the father’s potential failure to act is never punished. This is not a weakness of the narrative, but rather a timely interrogation into how we as a society treat flawed mothers.
Gut is courageous, probing, and deeply distressing, and leaves you haunted long after it ends. At its heart, it is the story of a family, divided in generation and gender, grappling with a world where you know in your gut that danger lies around every corner, but perhaps being shielded from that danger is worse than the threat itself.