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Darling by Kathy Rucker at The Hope Theatre

There’s no smoke without fire in Darling, and dramatic tension finally erupts, but not until well into the second half. By this point, one wonders whether the wait was really worth it, particularly in a show whose characters are all dislikeable. Pete (Tom Edward-Kane) for some reason has a cello in either the staff room, the back office or some other non-customer facing place (the set is distinctly non-specific every-place), and plays it at length, much to the displeasure of his superior, who would rather he did something to justify his existence in the workplace. Pete’s father, Roy (Colin Bruce) is one of those sweary types – there’s always something to complain about.

DARLING - Heider Ali and Lucia Young as Dave and Angie. Photographer Steve Gregson.
DARLING – Heider Ali and Lucia Young as Dave and Angie. Photographer Steve Gregson.

Then there’s Dave (Heider Ali) and Angie (Lucia Young), a writer and a writer’s partner respectively. Angie’s character may seem rather bareboned at face value, although the deviousness of the revenue-generating scheme they come up with is a substantial addition. Dave puts together, at length, a story to be sent out, by mail – this being the 1980s – to various people. It was, even then, possible to verify some of the details from news stories and other sources. There was a road traffic incident in which Dave’s created character, so to speak, was involved in. With bills to pay and the rent overdue, it was, Dave felt, worth a shot, and by way of repeated correspondence to those who chose to respond to an initial letter, he persuaded other people in other places that his accident victim persona was destitute and unable to work for a living due to the injuries sustained during the said accident.

This is the sort of play that reveals its story layer by layer. By the end, a very comprehensive picture is supplied as to what is really going on. The jigsaw pieces come together, and not all of the narrative detail is necessarily relevant to the final outcome of the story. But the audience is not aware of this, at least not at first viewing, and so I found myself baring certain details in mind that ended up being neither here nor there.

Given that the more intense and dramatic scenes occur in the second half, the show may work better trimmed down slightly to form a ninety-minute play without an interval (the total running time, minus the interval, was 100 minutes). There may not even need to be that much trimming to be done – steadily paced as it is, the production could be speedier. The play has good potential, though to be blunt the story felt unfinished, with the audience left to work out for themselves what happens to any of the on-stage characters in the end. That said, there’s convincing acting from the entire cast in this wide-ranging and multi-layered play.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s 1985 in small-town Indiana. Dave is a charismatic man with literary ambitions… He’s also a con artist. Angie, fleeing her past and desperate to belong, joins Dave to pull off a monumental scam – what some would call “old school catfishing”. Their victims are the lonely. When the law finally catches up to them, their strongest defender is one of their most aggrieved victims.

An American tale of love, mercy and mail fraud. Pretending to be someone else for fun and profit began long before computers were invented. Inspired by a true story that took place during the 1980’s in the American Midwest.

Could you spot a catfish?

Kathy Rucker, an award-winning American playwright, explores the risks and benefits of old-fashioned romance, where it is possible to fall for someone whom you only know from words on lilac-scented paper, and when catfishing was only an outdoor recreational pastime.

CAST
Tom Edward-Kane – Pete
Lucia Young – Angie
Heider Ali – Dave
Colin Bruce – Roy

Writer Kathy Rucker
Director Scott Le Crass
Producer Sarah Berger
Stage Manager Summer Keeling
Set Designer Jida Akil
Lighting Designer Jack Wills
Sound Designer Bella Kear
Costume Designer Jida Akil

Darling
9 – 27 Nov 2021
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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