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