Aalst attempts to explain the inexplicable. It looks at how the sort of crime that unites everyone in horror and abhorrence can come to be committed. It is also a debate on evil – asking if it is inherent, learned or created by social and environmental factors.
The basis of this short play is the case of a Belgian couple who murdered their two young children in 1999. Among other things it is based on transcripts of their trial as well as interviews and a TV documentary. The project’s originator Pol Heyvaert directs this new version by Duncan McLean.
It is staged starkly. The couple sits facing the audience as a disembodied voice seeks explanations from them. The tone is very flat – which adds to the unsettling nature of the subject matter. The pair have clearly led disadvantaged lives – being abused as children for instance. But they in turn abuse each other and their children. They appear to have no moral sense at all. However, they are always able to justify their actions in some way,at least to themselves, whether it relates to falsely obtaining state benefit or to antisocial behaviour towards their neighbours.
The disembodied voice is apparently that of a judge but – for those without knowledge of the Belgian judicial system – it could be any investigator or psychiatrist. In fact the couple are at one point declared sane - which makes understanding their actions even more difficult.
As the play progresses the same incidents are gone over and over, eliciting further and more illuminating detail. This reveals that the couple is playing the system. At the end this deceit is underlined when the disembodied voice ceases questioning them and there is dialogue between the pair for the first time. Now they are seen to be rehearsing their answers in order to lessen their sentences. They exhibit an apparently fake remorse that will explain their actions and reduce their punishment.
Kate Dickie and David McKay give devastatingly convincing performances as the murderous couple.