Violence dominates The Removalists but does so in a way that borders on the comic and the absurd. Act 1 opens in a Melbourne police substation, which is described as “having an air of [decrepit] inefficiency.” Ross, an enthusiastic rookie policeman, has just reported for his first day of duty, only to meet a jaded veteran, Sergeant Simmonds, who is to be his superior and mentor. At first, the dialogue appears aimless, but a pattern soon forms as the sergeant explains to his new assistant the essence of police work: to do as little as possible but always to maintain the delicate balance on which control rests. Wanting to respond in a pleasing manner, the young man tells Simmonds that “you’ve got to be trained for all eventualities in this rapidly changing world.” To this Simmonds replies, “Nothing changes in this world, boy.” The sergeant then relates, with obvious pleasure, a story about another idealistic rookie who made himself ridiculous when he mistook some innocent fun for a gang rape; this recollection is only one among several hints that brutality and violence surround the substation, indeed permeate all aspects of life.
Just as their exchange begins to seem tedious, two young women interrupt. Fiona, accompanied by her sister Kate, has come to the police station to report her husband, who beat her the previous night for not emptying the kitchen garbage. Simmonds handles the complaint with mock seriousness, stating pompously, “Yes. It’s pretty terrifying when the family unit becomes a seat of violence.” To prove his concern, he asks Fiona to expose her bruises, which he inspects, as the stage directions say, “slowly and lasciviously”; he then tells Ross to photograph the bruises for evidence. By now he has, through his lechery, created a sexual tension between himself and the victim’s sister, who is enjoying the other...
(The entire section is 767 words.)