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The Spiral Path at The White Bear Theatre

Very little was amusing, to me, in what was billed as a “suite of hilariously dysfunctional narratives”, although it was relatively easy to spot the comedy angle the play was going for. The show starts with a scene that could be truncated and ends with one that could also have been trimmed down. I am still not clear what precisely happens in either – nobody talks to each other in the first couple of minutes, though some of the characters are sharing what seems to be a poignant moment. While it becomes clear later on what was happening, it still seemed rather superfluous to circle back to something already presented to the audience.

The Spiral Path - Credit Origin8photography.com
The Spiral Path – Credit Origin8photography.com

The story centres around the premature death of Kirsty (Georgina Bennett), a victim of a road traffic accident – when a cyclist collides with a lorry, it doesn’t exactly take a genius to work out who doesn’t make it. The play considers what happens to those left behind – while taking nothing away from the tragedy itself. As for her significant other, Edward (Jonny D’Spenna), it would appear she didn’t marry him for love, though it isn’t made clear why she did. But then there’s Kirsty’s friend Georgina (Claire Jared), married to Edward’s off-stage brother James: the boys’ mother, Edie (Jill Priest) is incapable of cutting the umbilical cord and still insists on doing “what is best” for her sons, which never involves leaving them, or their partners, alone.

Scene changes take a while, even by fringe theatre standards, and while covered sufficiently with music, it only amplifies an uneven pace. The show is bookended with appearances from Harry (Paul Manuel), whose contribution to the narrative would be giving too much away, suffice to say it gives Kirsty some reassurance. To add to the complexity, not everything is presented in forward chronological order, and a childhood relationship from years ago involving Pete (voiced, rather earnestly, by Matthew Philip Harris) is thrown into the mix by Edie, one of those parents who will never believe anyone who enters into a relationship with her sons will ever measure up to her impossible standards.

The dialogue has a lot of detail, which is helpful when it comes to trying to understand these characters, though some of it isn’t followed up on. Georgina decides, for instance, that she isn’t going to Australia, but there’s nothing about what she originally intended to do there in the first place, or why she changed her mind. She might as well have said she isn’t going to Tesco. Elsewhere, however antagonistic Edie becomes, a dramatic showdown between her and – well, anyone – doesn’t materialise, and simmering tensions never boil over. I can’t help feeling it would have been a cathartic release if they did.

There are no weak links in a talented and committed cast, and the play deserves credit for addressing mental health issues without being preachy or taking the high moral ground. There is, however, a bit too much happening, and while the production demonstrates how intricately convoluted contemporary living can be, a narrower scope and a deeper exploration of fewer themes would have made for a more satisfying evening.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Mad Stallion Productions, in collaboration with KatAlyst Productions, proudly present The Spiral Path, written by Andrew Craig Sharpe.

Five characters, bereaved, betrayed, and befuddled by random acts of cruelty. Five interwoven tragedies cut together, a deeply personal examination of life, love and loss.

Off the back of a very well-received run at The Maltings Theatre, St Albans; KatAlyst & Mad Stallion Productions are delighted to bring this thought-provoking piece of new writing to a London audience at The White Bear Theatre.

Inspired by the tragic number of cyclists killed in London every year, The Spiral Path weaves a suite of hilariously dysfunctional narratives, a family in chaos, a best friend betrayed, against a backdrop of deep and lasting grief of a bereavement, and the brutal repression of sexual identity.

KatAlyst Productions
The Spiral Path
By Andrew Craig Sharpe
Directed by Kat Rogers

The White Bear Theatre, Kennington
22nd – 26th March 2022
https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/

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