When a person goes missing, what happens to those left behind? In Spiral, writer Abigail Hood sets out to explore the unfathomable pain of parents whose teenage daughter simply vanishes from their lives.
It’s a truism that, in the event of the loss of a loved one, friends and relatives immediately rally in the days and weeks following the event, but over time return to their routines, with their network of emotional support falling slack. Yet for the parents, the pain remains as raw as ever even months and years afterwards. It is some time after the disappearance that we meet Tom (Adam Morris) and Gill (Tracey Wilkinson). This grieving couple have all but given up hope, and as a result, a coolness has settled between them.
Whilst Gill finds solace in religion, Tom seeks comfort in the company of an escort – though not in the way you might think. The opening scene depicts the point at which Tom and Gill’s lives become entangled with those of another, very different couple: Leah (played by Hood) and Mark (Kevin Tomlinson, who also co-directs).
This opening scene is undoubtedly the most well-constructed of the play, in terms of both writing and direction. It plays with the audience’s expectations and preconceptions in a clever way. It is touching, but still feels uncomfortable – not an easy mixture for a dramatist to pull off.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the play fails to live up to its early promise. In spite of strong performances from all four cast members, Spiral stretches credibility and is full of glaring plot-holes and tropes. Tomlinson’s performance as Mark evokes menace as the physically abusive and manipulative pimp/boyfriend, and Wilkinson’s portrayal of a grieving mother has moments of jarring emotion, but the script does not do justice to their acting potential.
Nomi Everall’s geometric monochrome set is striking, but feels outmoded against the presence of naturalism. Most baffling of all are the scene changes and accompanying music which serve only to scupper the momentum of the action.
As an actor, Hood succeeds in pulling off a sensitive performance of a vulnerable young woman and victim of domestic abuse. As a writer, however, she falls short. Unfortunately, through a combination of a complicated narrative structure and clichéd, clunky production elements, the play lacks veracity. The piece itself moves like a spiral, only we never see its centre; the daughter’s disappearance remains a mystery. This is the biggest hole in the production, and it shows.
Spiral is playing at Park Theatre until September 1st. For more information and tickets, see here.
Photo Credit: Benkin Photography