16 November 2015 | 4:49 pm | Hannah Story

"It's a chilling story - and a chilling play."

The cocaine trade takes centre stage in Angela Betzien's new play Mortido. It's the story of Jimmy (the skittish Tom Conroy), a recovering drug addict living in Penrith, who, from some misguided sense of loyalty, partners with his brother-in-law, Monte (Renato Musolino) on a drug deal.

It's a deal that takes them from Berlin to Bolivia, from Darlinghurst to Cabramatta, from the seedy underbelly of a rural town to Ivy nightclub. It makes them do things that will haunt them later — or perhaps the thing that is driving them is mortido, Freud's death drive — and puts them on the wrong side of some of the higher-ups in the Sydney drug trade.

The building up of tension throughout the first act doesn't quite hit its mark in the second, the second feels rushed, tying up too many loose ends, playing out too many extended metaphors — but it does mean that when the lights go up for interval we're aching to know what's coming next. That's a testament to the surety of Betzien's writing: she knows how to build up a crime drama to its inevitable, and distressing, conclusion. She also knows how to shock and enthrall from the get-go, with Detective Grubbe, played by Colin Friels, opening the play with the story of a German drug dealer in Bolivia who cuts open a seven-year-old boy with a carving knife, and then fills his stomach with packages of cocaine. It's a chilling story — and a chilling play.

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