Sunday, 17 July 2016

Shadows on the Stage: Revenge or redemption

Stalking the Bogeyman
dir Markus Potter • scr David Holthouse, Markus Potter
with Gerard McCarthy, Mike Evans, Glynis Barber, Geoffrey Towers, Amy Van Nostrand, John Moratis
Southwark Playhouse 15.Jul-6.Aug.16

Staged in Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre, this remarkable play immerses the audience in a topic we feel we understand already. But scene after scene flips the issues on their head, forcing us to a deeper understanding. It's a powerful and important drama, beautifully staged.

Based on the real experiences of writer David Holthouse, the show hinges on a demanding performance from actor Gerard McCarthy, who plays David from age 7 to his early 30s. The show opens with him narrating the events as an adult who has decided to kill the man who raped him 25 years earlier. Then we flash back, as young David is with his parents (Barber and Towers) at a dinner party with their friends (Van Nostrand and Moratis), whose 14-year-old sporting star son (Evans) teases David in the basement before launching his assault.

The performances are of course rather heightened, with grown men playing young boys, but that somehow makes the whole thing even more chilling, especially as they get older and we can still see their childlike insecurities. Evans and McCarthy (pictured) are superb at every stage, and their later confrontations are both gripping and wrenchingly emotional.

Director Potter stages this in the round, with the set surrounding the audience. Actors emerge from the seats to play their scenes before disappearing back into the crowd. It's a clever touch that makes a point, and the script maintains this kind of subtle complexity at every turn, upending expectations and challenging accepted wisdom.

The story hinges around David's urgent cry: "Why should I be scared? He's the one who should be scared!" So without overtly saying it, the play becomes a powerful, riveting exploration of feelings the entire audience shares about the state of the world today. This also makes the characters' complex mix of anger and compassion increasingly urgent.

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