Doubt, trust and suspicion may be themes that have been exhaustively plundered and explored in theatre since time immemorial, but rarely are they executed with quite such panache as that depicted in Abigail Hood’s powerful play, Spiral.
Her story focuses with admirable evenness on two couples. In one corner, we have school teacher Tom (Adam Morris) and his wife Gill (Tracey Wilkinson) mourning the disappearance of their teenage daughter. In the other, we have Leah (played by Hood), a young escort, aggressively manipulated by her abusive, seedy boyfriend Mark (Kevin Tomlinson).
Tom is struggling to come to terms with his grief. It would seem that he knows nothing of his daughter’s fate. Is she dead or merely missing? Spiral opens with his rendezvous with a young schoolgirl, who turns out to be Leah dressed as such. As an introduction to the drama that follows, concern is raised from the get-go as to Tom’s character.
Was Tom’s desire to meet this young girl related to his grief? Or was there something more sinister at play? This affable gent is seemingly decent, but maybe it is all a little ‘too good to be true’. After all, accusations of impropriety have been made against him at his place of work. Back at her abode, Leah is facing the Spanish Inquisition from her domineering, violent and bullying partner. She is trapped and suffocated in this twisted imitation of true love.
Terse words and testy allegations bounce back and forth like frantic verbal ping pong in both quarters. All the while, Hood keeps the majority of her cards close to her chest. It is to her immeasurable credit that she has sculpted a play that gives balance and full-bodied, three-dimensional characterisation. Even the unsympathetic characters are more than mere archetypes.
Further, the performances are consummately delivered. This cast is utterly exceptional and superlatives should be showered upon them. Both individually and collectively, they elevate a great script to even greater heights.
Whilst this is all undeniably top-notch, a minor complaint is that the material is frontloaded with its most affecting and effective scenes. As a consequence, what would otherwise be a fine ending cannot help but feel a little flat in contrast to the wonderment that precedes it.
Such a quibble is meanspirited on balance, however, as Spiral proves itself to be a consistently mature and potent drama and one of those occasions where the opening exchange signposts that the audience is in safe hands and that the ticket money that they have parted with shall be honoured with something memorable (for all the right reasons). Classy, thought-provoking stuff.
Review by Greg Wetherall
London. 2018. A bedsit. A young woman in trouble. A bridge. A missing teenager – and parents searching for answers.
Struggling to cope with the disappearance of his teenage daughter, secondary school teacher Tom decides to book an escort (Leah) in an attempt to numb his pain. Little does he realise the impact this will have on both their lives and the lives of those closest to them.
This thrilling contemporary play explores lives in crisis and the need within the human spirit to cling to another person, no matter what the cost. But do we really know the people we are closest to? What happens when trust breaks down? Does our past shape our future? Can other people save us? Or must we save ourselves?
Please note: Spiral explores three relationships; two of which are dysfunctional. One of these relationships involves episodes of emotional, psychological and physical abuse.
Veritas Theatre Company in association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
By Abigail Hood
WRITER – ABIGAIL HOOD
CO-DIRECTORS – GLEN WALFORD AND KEVIN TOMLINSON
PRODUCER – MAGDALENE DORLING
DESIGNER – NOMI EVERALL
LEAH – ABIGAIL HOOD
TOM – ADAM MORRIS
MARK – KEVIN TOMLINSON
GILL – TRACEY WILKINSON
Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP