Tag Archives: Abigail Hood

“Spiral” at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Big ambitions and bold moments provide enough intrigue for Abigail Hood’s new play to hold attention. Regrettably, strangely, the play suffers from an excess of imagination. From the strong scenario of a couple whose child has gone missing, Spiral engages, but too often tests.

From the top, Tom and Gill, whose daughter has been missing for six months, are written with care. Hood has provided strong roles that Jasper Jacob and Rebecca Crankshaw make the most of. Examining the details of how their marriage has suffered is done well – these are the play’s best scenes and show strong work from director Kevin Tomlinson.

We first meet Tom as he has hired an escort, Leah, to impersonate his daughter (school uniform and all). The scene is every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds. A challenge is fine – Tom’s protestations that the role-play helps him is interesting. But while the writer Hood, who also takes the part of Leah, acts well, the script is clunky and the dialogue hollow.

The action continues to be outlandish, with the arrival of Leah’s boyfriend and pimp Mark (a role director Tomlinson takes). Again, Hood’s performance is strong – that her character feels she is “a nothing person” is moving. But the wish to be confrontational – and efforts at a dark eroticism – fall flat. Neither Mark nor his gaslighting are convincing or detailed enough.

Further interactions between characters stay odd and, even worse, oddly static. Hood wants to ask how people react in extreme conditions, but ends up baffling. Leaving aside what has happened to Tom and Gill’s girl is a mature move. But plot is piled on relentlessly: an alleged assault by Tom, Leah’s pregnancy, Gill’s alcoholism and Mark’s stalking.

There is no shortage of action or puzzle here, and the work put into the play is clear. Could Tom’s interaction with Leah really be innocent? Could his wife ever understand this? And is Leah acting altruistically? (Note that there are no questions surrounding Mark, except would the piece be better as a three-hander?) Questions are good, but it is possible for a play to have too many of them, and Spiral ends up suffering as a result.

Until 19 August 2023


Photo by Ben Wilkin

“Monster” at the Park Theatre

Abigail Hood’s disturbing play works hard at being hard hitting. Tackling so much trauma – including the death of a child – ensures the drama is powerful. And the show is well performed, despite the bumpy script. But be prepared, the show is not for the faint hearted.

Kayleigh and Caitlin (Hood and Zoe Douglas) are schoolgirl lovers, and their affair is well depicted. Although they are both old for their age, with difficult backgrounds, Hood manages to remind us that they are still children. The girls are endearing and the humour is strong. But laughs stop quickly, and the play explodes in an exaggerated fashion.

An episodic structure, handled at a breakneck pace by director and dramaturg Kevin Tomlinson, feels horribly rushed. There’s little wrong with any of the scenes but all are so short that none quite satisfies. Secondary characters suffer. Although well performed by Gillian Kirkpatrick and Emma Keele, Kayleigh’s mother and a well-meaning schoolteacher do not convince. The former is a religious maniac/prostitute and the latter another victim of abuse seeking to “save” the young girl. Grim is fine, but sketchy proves frustrating.

Kevin Wathen

There is a welcome change of pace after the interval. A calmer approach brings more depth. Set after Kayleigh’s release from prison, the aftermath of her crime is examined in more detail.  The scenario is contrived and the dialogue clunky, even clichéd. But observing how events have changed all the characters leads to good performances (and, since he hasn’t been mentioned yet, Kevin Wathen has a superb scene).

Might there be a too much sympathy for the monster of the title? Kayleigh is a fascinating character, from a smart girl with “no filter” to a woman genuinely haunted by what she has done. Hood conveys all this superbly, with a depiction so determined to be empathetic that it becomes bold and raises interesting questions. Despite problems in the script, which never hold the cast back, it’s interesting and brave to face the monstrous like this.

Until 20 August 2022


Photos by Ben Wilkin