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Review of Alligators at Hampstead Theatre

Alec Newman (Daniel) and Susan Stanley (Sally) in Alligators at Hampstead Downstairs. Photo by Robert Day
Alec Newman (Daniel) and Susan Stanley (Sally) in Alligators at Hampstead Downstairs. Photo by Robert Day

What would the world find if your own box of secrets was prised open and examined? How would you feel, if all your previous misdemeanours were linked together to suggest you were, in fact, guilty of something utterly abhorrent, like paedophilia? These are the challenges faced by schoolteacher Daniel in Andrew Keatley’s topical play Alligators, returning to the Hampstead Theatre after a successful run last year. On the surface, Daniel has a job he loves, and an idyllic, happy family to come home to. However, when allegations surface made by a former pupil, accusing Daniel of sexual misconduct 7 years ago, his life is thrown into turmoil as the media begin to rub their hands together gleefully, his friends and previous colleagues give him the cold shoulder, and his wife Sally also reluctantly begins to doubt his innocence.

The sense of ambiguity throughout is key to this piece; in some places this is far more present than at others, at which point the production is deliciously thrilling. However, as other secrets come tumbling out of Daniel’s box, the sense of ambiguity is lost – we, as the audience, can at times judge Daniel in the way the media and the police may do, linking previous misdemeanours together to establish his guilt. Perhaps Keatley could have revelled in this ambiguity a little more – provided less fodder with which to throw Daniel to the dogs (or alligators), so as to cause greater confusion and uncertainty in us as the viewers.

The set, designed by Polly Sullivan, is gorgeously naturalistic, with baby gubbins everywhere, books and games decorating one wall, a working television, and a tiny, realistic kitchen that can just be seen offstage. Set in traverse, Simon Evans’ production has a real claustrophobic feeling about it, perfectly emulating the stifling vilification of our protagonist, Daniel, as the walls seem to be closing in on him, watched as he is from every angle by his jurors. The piece is also beautifully acted – especially by the women, with Susan Stanley as Sally providing a subtle swing from supportive to doubting wife, and Leah Whitaker as Daniel’s lawyer Rachel providing a wonderfully stoic, sharp, professional presence that contrasts nicely with this domestic setting. Alec Newman as Daniel nicely captures his descent into the stuff of nightmares as he witnesses his world quickly crumbling around him, and it’s always a joy to have actual children on stage – in this instance, Lucia Peragine as 7-year-old Genevieve is the picture of innocence, confusing the ‘allegations’ made against her dad for ‘alligators’ coming to get them in their third floor flat, giving the piece its ominous title.

Highly topical after the spate of recent high-profile paedophile arrests, Alligators is enjoyable for the questions it forces the audience to answer. What is in our box? And if brought to light, would it also make us, like Daniel, look guilty?

5 Star Rating

Review by Amy Stow

Daniel Turner has it all. A devoted wife, two beautiful children and a teaching job he loves. But when a series of allegations surface from six years earlier his world begins to crumble around him.

Can all the good he’s done be erased by one pointed finger? How can his loved ones doubt his innocence and can life ever be the same again?

A HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS ORIGINAL
ALLIGATORS
BY ANDREW KEATLEY
DIRECTED BY SIMON EVANS
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including interval
22 JUN – 22 JUL 2017
https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/

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