I’m not entirely sure how to explain National Killing Day. It was a bit like The Purge but more bureaucratic and decidedly more British.
It’s also a little confusing and inconsistent, though strongly acted for the most part, with amusing moments and glimmers of strong writing potential. The script is in need of some revision; some scenes are a little too laboured with clunky dialogue that repeats points too often. I found myself not fully understanding the motivation of certain characters and why the heck they were doing or saying they things they were. There’s absurdism and then there’s just having your characters do weird things for the sake of being weird. I fear National Killing Day fell into the latter. One of the aspects that confused me the most was probably the title. Within the play, characters are very very insistent that the correct terminology is “slaying” not “killing”, which left me questioning why the day is referred to as “National Killing Day” both out and in-universe. ‘National Slaying Day’ would have been a perfectly fine title and wouldn’t have left that recurring element of the script seeming relatively pointless and clumsy.
Script problems aside, the acting was fairly good in regards to the leads. Connor Burns put in a strong performance as of James, being able to convey anguish extremely well, and Claire Crossland, likewise, does great job as Jenny, being a reassuringly measured presence amongst the slightly overdone performances of the wider cast.
In general though, this play is a little bit of a mess. There was a truly painful attempt at Scottish accents at one stage featuring characters that mercifully only lasted for a single scene. I also can’t forgive it for choosing, without any hint of irony, to have all the characters dressed in black apart from those who symbolically wear white. It’s the kind of thing you mock as a staple of GCSE drama pieces but seemed to be employed here with a complete straight-face. It was at the point where this began that I kind of lost hope a little for this play.
It was fun though. I had fun watching it, and nearly had a heart-attack at one point when a character burst out of the curtains beside me. I have no regrets in watching it, and only wish the script had gone through a few more rewrites to bring out what potential was there.