Theatre Review: Orlando Bloom is the weakest link in Killer Joe 

Orlando Bloom was one of the main reasons I booked tickets to see Killer Joe – besides really liking the Matthew McConaughey-starring film – but his performance was the one I ended up watching the least because he was easily outshone by everyone else.

In the Tracy Letts play, Bloom plays the titular Joe, a police detective who moonlights as a hitman who is hired by Chris Smith (Adam Gillen) and his father Ansel (Steffan Rhodri) to kill Chris’ mother Adele to claim on her life insurance policy. Trouble is, they don’t have the money up front to pay Joe so he insists on a retainer in the form of Chris’ sister and Ansel’s daughter Dottie (Sophie Cookson) – and he won’t give her up until he gets paid.

I had very low expectations for Killer Joe and it exceeded them easily, mainly thanks to the excellent supporting cast. The treatment of women in the play is pretty dire and both Cookson and Neve McIntosh, who plays stepmum Sharla, put on brave performances which require full-frontal nudity and performing sexual acts. Regardless of that, they are both impressive, with Cookson nailing Dottie’s childish innocence and energy and McIntosh getting to show off her range in the second half when Sharla really gets put through the shit.

Gillen also deserves a shout out. He drives the story, has the most lines, races about the set and made me tired just looking at him. He gets so involved in the role that he is sweating profusely and spitting, snotting and dribbling all over the place. You can’t say he didn’t give his all. Rhodri has a less showier part as the lazy dad but he was the most natural, the one who felt like he was ‘acting’ the least.

Onto Bloom. He is not terrible at all, it’s just everyone else was better and I don’t think he was the right fit for Joe. He is too pretty and doesn’t play threatening believably enough. Joe is initially charismatic and charming, getting the family on side, and Bloom does that fine, but it’s in the latter half when Joe gets really mean and begins hurting the family. I didn’t believe him. You needed an actor with a maniacal look about him, that seems twisted and unhinged and scary, and he wasn’t. His Texas accent was fine but not as good and natural as the others and he felt like he was ‘acting’ a lot. Though diehard fans will be happy to know that he gets fully naked onstage.

The staging was incredible and I was sat in seats on the stage so I saw everything up close and could really appreciate the attention to detail. I felt like I was part of the story and was really involved being so close to the actors, which meant when the gun comes out at the showdown I was absolutely crapping myself. The choreography of the final five minutes is excellent and I wish that I could see it again.

Overall: Come for Bloom, come away remembering everyone else’s performance more

Killer Joe is playing at the Trafalgar Studios in London until 18 August. Bloom will be absent from certain performances. Book here

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