Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Theatre review: Stalking the Bogeyman

My theatrical choices have been packed with irony this heatwave, as baking hot fringe theatres are having to pass for some cold locations - last night the Himalayas, tonight Alaska, where journalist David Holthouse's family moved in the late 1970s. Although they didn't know anyone in Anchorage to start with, Nancy (Glynis Barber) and Robert (Geoffrey Towers) quickly made friends with a local couple, whose teenage son was happy to babysit the younger David while their parents held dinner parties. In fact when he was seven, David (Gerard McCarthy) was raped by the then 17-year-old son, whose name he refuses to use, only calling him the Bogeyman (Mike Evans.) Written by Holthouse along with the show's director Markus Potter, Stalking the Bogeyman is a documentary play that does relive this childhood trauma, but centres more on the adult David's desire for revenge.

Although still emotionally damaged, David has made a successful life for himself in Denver, but his discovery in the early 2000s that the Bogeyman has also moved there proves he's not ready to leave that part of his life behind.

Finding out that the Bogeyman now has children of his own, as well as coaching a kids' baseball team, David becomes determined to murder his childhood rapist - and with his writing having brought him into contact with much of Denver's criminal underworld, he's got the right contacts to pull it off. He tells himself it's because he wants to protect the kids; but it's not a justification that convinces even him entirely. I think this focus on the adult David's motivations is key: Although the actual rape was never repeated, the years growing up with his abuser always around are still traumatic, and we get to see a lot of painful encounters that come uncomfortably close to misery porn but are saved by the framing device.

The piece becomes more about the fears and trauma of the adult David, and a telling moment is when he confesses to his drug dealer and confidante (Amy Van Nostrand) that, knowing most abusers were in their turn abused, he grew up in fear of becoming one himself - the metaphor used is of being bitten by a werewolf. Rubbish Tranny plays David with a kind of clinical detachment that doesn't entirely discount the possibility he might have some sociopathic tendencies himself (he does, after all, spend much of the play planning a murder,) and which matches the play's journalistic style. It means that, despite being the true story of one of the play's authors, Stalking the Bogeyman isn't the most emotional look at the subject, but by the same token doesn't feel exploitative either.

Stalking the Bogeyman by Markus Potter and David Holthouse, with additional writing by Santino Fontana*, Shane Zeigler and Shane Stokes, is booking until the 6th of August at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: David Scheinmann.

*no, this does not mean the Bogeyman suddenly stops to break into a 1950s movie musical pastiche I'm afraid

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