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Review of Spiral at Jermyn Street Theatre

Abigail Hood’s play Spiral makes a strong statement about loss, guilt, accusation, and the faulty place of the father in family life.

Spiral. Photo by Mark Dawson Photography.
Spiral. Photo by Mark Dawson Photography.

It begins with an interaction between Leah (Abigail Hood) a young woman dressed in school uniform, and Tom (Jasper Jacob), a father-type male who, at first, appears to be a pervert offloading his sexual fantasies onto a faux-teenage girl.

Midway into their verbal interaction, we learn that, six months ago, Tom’s own adolescent daughter disappeared on the very morning he dropped her off around the corner from her school and that Leah is an escort hired to impersonate her, and perhaps help Tom talk through his grief.

Spiral then focuses on two relationships, Tom and his wife Gill (Rebecca Crankshaw), who relies on booze to quell the suffering of her daughter’s disappearance, and Leah and Mark (Kevin Tomlinson). Mark is an extremely disturbed young man with violent tendencies, who acts as Leah’s make-shift pimp and torturer.

Over time, Leah’s relationship with grieving Tom becomes one of mutual compassion, which evokes a lava-like jealous eruption in boyfriend Mark. Some viewers may find the control Mark holds over Leah’s mind and her body extremely disturbing but it is in no way exaggerated.

However, like media saturation of gruesome crimes, there are too many overly long scenes in which Leah’s humanity is pornographically degraded. Such scenes are difficult to watch and, for me, resulted in emotional disengagement – sometimes less is more in securing audience attention. But Mark is just one of two questionable males in the play.

Spiral‘s power begins to unravel a bit with suspicions around schoolteacher Tom’s tactile behaviour with his own female students – another example of pornographic representation – which then raises misgivings in wife Gill who struggles with her own guilt around their daughter’s disappearance.

Of Spiral‘s four characters, it is Rebecca Crankshaw who is magnificently believable as Gill and the shifting emotions she suffers from unbearable grief. She soldiers through with non-existent support from her more creative husband who turns to the outside world to alleviate grief, but Tom’s character, and his naiveté about his own questionable behaviour, remains unexplored.

Spiral is a courageous play that deals most effectively with its unflinching scenes of violence against women, and with the question of ‘who is to blame?’ when a child goes missing.

Much of its pain and suffering is placed at the altar of bad or non-existent parenting and the future it carves for children brought up in dysfunctional families. This would also apply to the vile character Mark – we sense his childhood was horrific – but, like Tom, questions about Mark’s inexcusable behaviour remain unanswered.

Kevin Tomlinson, who directs Spiral, and playwright Abigail Hood have saddled themselves with a heavy load in doubling up as lead characters in the play. It may be time to allow different actors to embody Leah and Mark, if only to expand the breadth of such an important play.

3 Star Review

Review by Loretta Monaco

A bedsit. A young woman in trouble. A bridge. A missing teenager – and parents searching for answers. Struggling to cope with the disappearance of their teenage daughter, Tom and Gill’s marriage is left in tatters. In an attempt to numb his pain, Tom makes a decision that has an irrecoverable and unexpected impact on their lives and the lives of those closest to them.

Spiral
BY ABIGAIL HOOD.
PRODUCED BY VERITAS THEATRE COMPANY.
DIRECTED BY KEVIN TOMLINSON.
2 AUGUST – 19 AUGUST 2023
https://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/

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1 thought on “Review of Spiral at Jermyn Street Theatre”

  1. I saw Spiral this afternoon and was blown away by the play and the acting – all the cast were superb but I thought Rebecca Crankshaw was exceptional.
    My friend and I both thought the play deserved to have wider recognition in the West End – well done Abigail Hood for a thought provoking and brilliant play.

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