Five years ago writer and actress Abigail Hood spotted a message printed in a free London newspaper: “Dear Steven, we love you, we miss you. We hope you found what you were looking for.” From that one brief message comes Spiral, a harrowing play exploring the effects of those left behind when a family member disappears.
Spiral is understandably a difficult watch at times and evokes emotion right from the get-go. Tom (Adam Morris) and Gil (Tracey Wilkinson) are a married couple struggling with the disappearance of their fifteen year old daughter Sophie six months ago. Gil has turned to alcohol and the church to get her through the days, while Tom can’t quite bring himself to let go of their daughter and makes some questionable decisions. He books escort Leah (Abigail Hood), having requested her to dress up like a schoolgirl; not for a sexual encounter however, but to tell him about her “day at school”. During this uncomfortable encounter the audience learns that Leah bears a striking resemblance to his daughter, and that Tom wants to cling on to Sophie’s world for as long as he can, no matter the consequences.
With the subject matter covering the disappearance of loved ones, domestic violence and abuse, Spiral is not an easy watch, and there are some scenes in particular which prove for very uncomfortable viewing indeed, notably when Mark’s jealousy of Leah being around other men comes to a head. That said it’s a tense, gripping play co-directed by Kevin Tomlinson and Glen Walford, with a strong cast of four who are all incredibly convincing in their roles. Adam Morris puts in a strong performance as Tom, a sorry state of a man who’s swept up in guilt and grief, a man who can’t quite understand the consequences of his actions. At times it does feel a little awkward that so much sympathy is directed towards his character, particularly with questions surrounding Sophie’s sudden disappearance. In contrast, more stage time for the excellent Tracey Wilkinson would have been appreciated to gain more of an insight into her character. She puts in an emotional performance as a heartbroken mother who’s missing her daughter and trying to cling onto her marriage. Abigail Hood is equally impressive as Leah, warm, likeable, playful at times, vulnerable at others, while Kevin Tomlinson is disturbingly believable as the controlling and manipulative Mark, evil personified. The scenes between Mark and Leah are chillingly memorable.
The setting of the Park 90 performance space is perfect for Spiral, creating a tense atmosphere as the play draws out. Staging is minimal, however at times the scene changes are a little too long in places, while in contrast some of the scenes a little too quick – there’s too much information played out in a short time.
Though it is a dark play, there are a few lighter moments, which may otherwise seem out of place, but in this instance provide a welcome relief. Spiral is a hard-hitting show which is shocking, gripping, well-written and brilliantly acted. You’ll never look at Curly Wurlys again in the same light.
This review was originally written for Love London Love Culture. To read the original, click here.