Orlando Bloom Is Now Playing A Psychotic Hitman In The West End

Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios ★★★☆☆

Neil Dowden
By Neil Dowden Last edited 25 months ago

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Orlando Bloom Is Now Playing A Psychotic Hitman In The West End Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios 3
Photographer Marc Brenner

A world away from his heroic escapades in The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, Orlando Bloom is now playing a psychotic hitman in the West End — and making a pretty convincing job of it. He is ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper, a police detective who has a sideline in contract killings, in Tracy Letts’s darkly comic crime thriller Killer Joe, first staged in 1993. This is all about sleaze not swashbuckling.

Photographer Marc Brenner

Joe is hired by the Smith family, who live in a Texan trailer park, to murder their estranged matriarch for her life insurance money. The trouble is they cannot pay him upfront, so they offer him the innocent young Dottie as a ‘retainer’ for his services. Like a psychobilly version of Tennessee Williams, this seedy slice of Southern Gothic is a nightmarish vision of dead-end trailer-trash lives, where people slouch around the TV in their underwear on a diet of fried chicken, beer and cocaine.

Photographer Marc Brenner

It’s a steamy stew of double-dealing, greedy stupidity — with a soupcon of incest thrown in — which tends to reinforce stereotypes rather than illuminate the condition of the American disenfranchised white working-class. There are dodgy scenes of sexual abuse involving a forced strip and mock fellatio in a violent atmosphere that sometimes seems overcooked, with an ending that is messy in every way. Nonetheless Simon Evans’s production is compelling and suspenseful, helped by Grace Smart’s superb design of a split-open, dirt-floor trailer home.

Photographer Marc Brenner

Sophie Cookson gives a strong performance as the doll-playing, girl-woman Dottie, who may have learning difficulties but is more aware of what’s going on than others think. And cast against type, Bloom impresses as the quietly menacing, disturbingly clinical Joe – evidently relishing the chance to play a much darker role in only his second appearance on the London stage.

Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, SW1A 2 DY.  Tickets £15–£75, until 18 August 2018.

Last Updated 06 June 2018