Malkovitch, Malkovitch, there’s no-one like Malkovitch

The Infernal Comedy – Barbican Hall, 17 June 2011

It is difficult to imagine the path that led John Malkovitch to decide that one of his rare forays into the theatre would involve producing a piece based on the true life story of the notorious Austrian serial killer, Jack Unterweger. If that is hard to picture then staging it is a darkly comedic one-man show, with a dead Unterweger recounting his life story alongside a string orchestra and two opera singers tackling selected arias from the likes of Mozart, Vivaldi and Haydn, must seem totally unfathomable.

To say that The Infernal Comedy is an original piece of work is something of an understatement. Sticking faithfully to the traditional adage of truth being stranger than fiction, the story of Unterweger is fascinating. Originally sentenced to 25 years for murder Unterweger became a cause celebre among liberal Austrian intellectuals, who held him up as a model for the powers of rehabilitation on the basis of his poetry and short stories.

In 1990 Unterweger was released; soon becoming a national celebrity and writing articles about the conditions of Austrian sex workers. However, within a year of his release he had killed six more prostitutes and, even more audaciously, murdered three more in California after being invited to America. Eventually caught, Unterweger hung himself in prison after again being found guilty of murder.

That this story works as a play is testimony to the virtuoso performance at its centre from Malkovitch. In cinema he has become the by-word for a certain type of ‘acting’. And whether you love or hate him there is denying that he is one of the few actors around today who envelops the screen whenever in shot. It is this magnetism that propels the play forward.  Continue reading here