Please note, the show includes very strong triggers (physical aggression, abortion). Please check with the theatre before purchasing a ticket.
Abigail Hood’s thought-provoking play, directed by Kevin Tomlinson, had me at the edge of my seat from start to finish. If you like stories that develop slowly, make you play detective and not just serve you all the answers on a silver platter, “Spiral” should fit right up your alley.
Dive into darkness, emerge with clarity
Do you know how good theatre by default is supposed to give you a catharsis-like feeling? Well, Abigail Hood’s writing is a kind of drama that would cleanse your soul and thoughts, in just under 2 hours. Hood’s writing delves into the deep-buried traumas that shape human lives (as proven both in “Monster” in 2022, and now in “Spiral”). Her ability to explore the grey areas of human emotions gave me a kind of mental cleanse. In this show, Hood has found the perfect balance between darkness and hope, proving her mastery of storytelling.
The play intricately weaves together two compelling storylines. The first follows a desperate couple grappling with the mysterious disappearance of their young daughter, leaving their marriage in shambles. The second revolves around a deeply wounded young woman who finds herself entangled with a manipulative boyfriend, leading her to make regrettable choices. As various accusations are thrown, trust in relationships erodes, and we observe each character picking their own (sometimes controversial and painful) path to relative mental stability.
A gripping journey that leaves you breathless
There’s forced prostitution, gaslighting, a missing father, a Jane Doe body found by the police… Generally – it’s not the easiest play to watch, but as I was looking for a more challenging and heavier kind of play, “Spiral” was a perfect choice. One scene that I wasn’t expecting, and which made the watch much heavier for me, was the harrowing depiction of a forced abortion. Though hauntingly hypnotic, it was a brutal and uncomfortable moment that momentarily forced me to look away, a testament to the power of Hood’s writing and the performers’ skills. See what I meant about triggers in this show? They’re serious here.
Minimalistic Brilliance: Intriguing Staging and Lighting Design
“Spiral” adopts a minimalistic staging approach with basic square seats that transform into a bench. The lighting design sets the mood and discreetly covers actor changes. However, the choice of strong, energising music played between scenes wasn’t always a perfect match, and alternative sounds could have been more appropriate in some instances.
Four actors gave fantastic performances – and frankly, I’m struggling to pick a favourite here. In terms of facial expressions – the standout performance came from Rebecca Crankshaw (Gill), whose acting and emotional depth was nothing short of astonishing, particularly in a powerful husband-wife fight scene that left me breathless. If I may say, as much as you can enjoy seeing someone “dirty cry”, she excelled here.
A Slow-Burning Mystery That Keeps You Guessing
The play skillfully built tension, particularly through Jasper Jacob’s enigmatic portrayal of Tom. Throughout the performance, I found myself constantly questioning his motives and potential involvement in a student molestation scandal.
On the other hand, Abigail Hood’s portrayal of young Leah brought the character to life with a likeable and relatable persona, serving as a beacon of hope and faith amidst the dark and complex plot.
Kevin Tomlinson’s portrayal of Mark in “Spiral” undoubtedly created a formidable and memorable villain. His performance was undeniably powerful, but at times, Mark’s villainy became so extreme and sneaky that it pushed the boundaries of believability. This character is depicted as 100% bad, a gaslighting aggressor, and unfortunately, there was no redeeming back-story to provide some balance to his behaviour.
The stage movement in “Spiral,” though slightly imperfect, added a sense of authenticity that immersed the audience further into the narrative. I did notice some minor issues with the way scenes were concluded. Given the show’s structure with quick scene changes and the need for actors to exit swiftly, certain actions, like Mark throwing Leah’s top on the floor in anger, only to pick it up a second later to clear the stage, felt unnecessary. It would have been more practical and seamless if he had simply exited by hitting a wall on his way out, eliminating any distractions and maintaining the flow of the performance.
“Spiral” offers an enthralling and thought-provoking theatrical experience that leaves a lasting impact beyond the final curtain call. The collaboration between KEPOW Theatre Company and Jermyn Street Theatre has resulted in an exceptional production, highlighting the immense talent of all involved.
Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to Abigail Hood’s future works. Her ability to elevate her craft and create soul-cleansing narratives that deeply resonate with audiences is truly remarkable. “Spiral” is a testament to her storytelling prowess and the emotional depth she brings to the stage.
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show
About the show:
BY ABIGAIL HOOD
PRODUCED BY VERITAS THEATRE COMPANY
DIRECTED BY KEVIN TOMLINSON
2 AUGUST – 19 AUGUST 2023