The politics of violence - when can it be justified? Who is capable of it? - is considered by two separate productions at The Basement: a tense all-female hostage thriller set in New Zealand, and an Irish black comedy with a mostly male cast.
Mo and Jess Kill Susie ($18-$22), the three-hander at 6.30pm in the upstairs studio, comes with warnings about strobe lighting, violence, noise and "offensive language", although the twisted stories - the strings of words - are more keenly visceral than any isolated swearing (some might find they're trauma triggers).
The Theatre of Love production starts wonderfully quickly with a hiss and a roar, and a story about Otago student days told with relish by Mo (compellingly played by Jess Sayer). She describes seeing blood which was "lumpy like it was mixed with phlegm or cum ... all stringy".
Gary Henderson's 1996 script doesn't shy away from abject life and desire, and it has great rhythm and gripping images. While the portrayal of Maori activism and its motives is unconvincing, his characters fascinate in their evolving versions of truth. Directed by Matt Baker, the performances pull you along. This is for audiences wanting a shot of adrenalin.
The Slapdash Assassin ($25), 8pm in the main theatre, swaps some intensity for humour. Jerome (an energetic, committed Jeremy Elwood) claims to be a driver like Ayrton Senna "pre-crash, obviously" and like "James Bond on a bad hair day". Except Bond was never surrounded by a family attempting Irish accents.
It's a bit long but Mark Power's script is full of great, crunchy one-upmanship in one-liners. The production is slightly hokey - maudlin Johnny Cash, awkward seating arrangements, flat supporting characters - but for all that, it's mighty entertaining.
"How many confessions of murder have you heard in your career?" asks Jerome of his priest cousin. "Nine," comes the prompt, anguished reply. They're all Jerome's.
What: The Slapdash Assassin and Mo and Jess Kill Susie
Where: The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, to March 8.