Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Theatre review: Dangling

Not actually the story of Mr and Mrs Gling’s son Daniel, Abigail Hood’s Dangling is inspired by missing persons stories, and particularly by the families left behind, not knowing if they’ll ever have closure on what happened to their loved one. Hood herself plays Charlotte, a prostitute hired by Greg (Jasper Jacob,) to dress up like his missing teenage daughter. He doesn’t actually want sex from her, but his actions don’t exactly help quash rumours that his daughter ran away because he abused her; nor does an accusation by some of her friends, whom he claims he was only talking to as a way of feeling close to the missing Carly. The real reason for Carly’s disappearance is never revealed, and Hood’s play leans towards Greg’s innocence, but these London-based scenes alternate with another story set in Oldham, and here the reason why a young girl might want to vanish without a trace is made all too clear.

Danny (Philip D McQuillan) hears his abusive father is about to be released from prison and leaves town, ostensibly to find somewhere safe for him and his younger sister; but he’s been misinformed about the release date, and their father returns too soon for Kate (Charlotte Brooke) to escape.

The play, which is being staged in support of two missing-persons charities, deals with a serious and easily forgotten issue, but I’m not sure it goes about it the right way, spreading itself over two unconnected stories, which themselves tend to go off on tangents. Charlotte is herself an abuse victim, meaning Greg finds an extra dimension to his protective role of her, but the play spends far too much time on her relationship with abusive boyfriend Matt (Christopher Lane,) distracting from Greg and his wife’s ways of dealing with their loss.

According to the programme notes the play took a few attempts to get funding, and its requirement for nine actors – some of whom have very little to do – can’t have helped make it an attractive proposition to stage. The cast they’ve ended up with are, with the best will in the world, of mixed ability, and together with the much too time-consuming scene changes this results in Kevin Tomlinson’s production lacking energy.

Where it does get an injection of pace is in the most brutal way possible, with the return of Danny and Kate’s father Ken (Ian Gain.) The scene of him abusing his daughter in the background while her mentally broken mother (Maggie Saunders) distracts herself is the most shocking and effective of the evening, and it kicks the latter part of the play up a notch; a shame the rest of it struggles to come to life.

Dangling by Abigail Hood is booking until the 26th of August at Southwark Playhouse’s Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Benkin Photography.

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