‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ is an anti-romance story written by Cleveland born playwright, Rajiv Joseph. It had its World Premiere in Texas in 2009, then a year later Joseph was nominated as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’, one of Playlovers’ recent productions.

Joseph served three years in the West African Republic of Senegal Peace Corps. He then earned a Masters in Dramatic Writing, before going on to teach Essay Writing at a New York university.

This high quality, 90-minute drama is filled with black humour, can be seen at Playlovers, Hackett Hall, Draper Street, Floreat on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 until the 25th July. There are Sunday matinees, at 2.00 pm, on the 12th and 19th.


The set comprises a theatre makeup room, on the apron at each side of the stage; this is where the two cast members get changed, or should I say metamorphosed between every scene?

The stage itself is totally black. There are two metal-framed beds and other pieces of black furniture (stage managed by Cassidy Bodenham). The two cast members carried out the minor scene changes, but Cassidy had a great deal of planning for their costume changes and makeup. Three projectors are used to give pictorial information (Caitlin Telcik, Claire Taylor).

The story takes place from the mid 1960s, over a period of 30 years,. We see a meeting of the couple every 4 or 5 years, but not in chronological order.


       Most young boys who fancy a girl at school would, rather than profess his love, pull her hair or hit her. However, for eight-year-old Doug (Sam Barnett), he attention seeks by hurting himself with ridiculously dangerous stunts. The girl he is trying to attract is Kayleen (Kimberley Harris), who has a fascination with scars and blood.

       As the years go on, we see this strange couple maturing; but in his search for empathy rather than sympathy, Doug still needs to share his latest wound – and there are numerous – or a desire to talk about his bodily functions, is never very far away. Yes, Doug is a very confused young man. Kayleen, on the other hand, has a strong desire to better herself, to find someone to love her, but most of all, escape from her uncaring parents.

       Can Doug and Kayleen’s relationship ever blossom? Or will an awful existence befall them both?


These two wonderful actors have shown real talent. A two-hander play is extremely difficult at any time, but this 90-minute play has no interval, and the added undertaking of a mild American accent – both actors’ accents matched, yeeh!!, and were natural not grating. Due to an original cast member having other commitments, Kim was only given her part 3 weeks ago, what a remarkable performance. Both characters’ temperaments changed many times throughout the play, ranging from severely ill to downright aggressive, but with the strong guidance of the director, Kristen Twynam-Perkins and her assistant director, Natalie Cox, the result was amazing. Perfect pace, not a line missed genuine rapport and emotion between the characters. Excellent performances.

It was fascinating to see how much thought had been put into the makeup (gore courtesy of Manuao TeAotonga) and the costumes, as the characters’ ages changed, the subtleties of the fashion for the particular era always shone through. The well-selected music (sound operation by Dylan Shelton) set the year, with more serious Russian classical music being played for the reasonably lengthy costume and makeup changes. The lighting design (John Woolrych) was simple but most effective, smoothly operated by Catherine O’Donoghue.

I always admire a team that take on a play that is unusual and challenging, this team went for a difficult experiment and won.