In Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Fury, a successful couple with a teenaged son are visited one evening by the deputy headmaster of his private school. Joe, he informs them, is in trouble. At first Alice (Danielle Carter) and Patrick (Joe Petruzzi) cannot countenance that their darling Joe has done anything wrong. He is gentle and sensitive and plays the cello, and, as would be expected of the son of a neuroscientist and a novelist, highly intelligent. When they discover what the crime is, they are utterly flummoxed; Joe (played with pale intensity by Sean Rees-Wemyss) and his friend Ethan have defaced the local mosque and broken some of its windows. This serves like a stone thrown into a pond; the ripples continue to spread, affecting the lives of the boys, the school, but it seems, most of all, the parents.
We are in familiar Murray-Smith territory, a satirical and often savage look at the morals and values of the middle class. Her middle class is Melbourne’s lefty intelligentsia, but it could easily be the equivalent in Birmingham or Baltimore. Wherever they are, they’re going to have their humanistic, liberal ideals winded and wounded by a big fat illiberal punch to the guts.
Alice and Patrick, fleshed out in an over-dense opening scene, seem immediately familiar; maybe it’s a mirror being held up to the audience. Maybe we know these characters from a hundred other similar scenarios. They are self-congratulatory yet critical of each other, absorbed in their own successes. Alice retains a feminist fury that her brilliance has taken twenty-five years to be acknowledged by the patriarchy, while easy-going but uneasy Patrick courts complacency as a refuge. He proclaims: ‘The great thing about being our age is that we don’t need to change our minds about anything … The whole point of middle age is being an apology-free zone. So long as you’re bombastic about it, people will admire you for it.’ Ding dong, there goes the door bell. That delusion is immediately punctured, as we knew it would be.