Review: The Effect, National Theatre, starring Paapa Essiedu and Taylor Russell - oozes with chemistry
Review: A Mirror, Almeida Theatre - a play that continually surprises

Review: Spiral, Jermyn Street Theatre - growing unease and suspicion

Spiral image - Ben Wilkin
Abi Hood and Kevin Tomlinson in Spiral. Photo: Ben Wilkin

Last year Abi Hood's play Monster had one particularly shocking scene which has lingered in my memory; in contrast, Spiral is a play of unease and suspicion.

It centres on the friendship between Tom, a teacher (Jasper Jacob) and Leah (Abi Hood), an escort, the motivation for which has one or two grey areas and the impact that has on their other relationships - Tom's wife, Gill (Rebecca Crankshaw) and Leah's boyfriend Mark (Kevin Tomlinson).

Tom and Gill's teenage daughter Sophie has gone missing taking nothing with her, and they are coping in different ways. Gill has turned to drink and the church, while Tom meets with Leah, who looks a bit like Sophie.

Leah isn't in a good place herself. Her mother is no longer around, and she lost contact with her father when she was a child. Mark, who came to her rescue at a low moment, isn't the guardian angel he first appeared, rather, he is increasingly controlling and abusive.

His moods swing between the kicks he gets from her escort work, which he encourages her to do, and jealousy if punters show the wrong sort of attention.

I was mentally screaming 'leave him' from very early on.

But it's Leah and Tom where the unease really centres. They meet more and more to share chips and conversation; are they fulfilling an innocent need for each other? Is it merely that Tom's way of coping is to try and recreate his relationship with his beloved Sophie? Is Tom a much-wanted father figure for Leah?

When Tom gets accused of inappropriately touching one of his students, Gill starts questioning his relationship with Sophie and Leah. And so do we.

The play explores our needs from relationships for good and bad and how those needs can be perceived more widely.

Hood layers the simple joys of connection, wanting to care and feel cared for, with threat and tragedy in a way that tests and challenges and creates suspicion.

Jacob and Hood deliver complex characters in Tom and Leah, while Tomlinson makes Mark menacing, appearing loving one minute and threatening the next. However, Gill feels a little underdeveloped, with angry the default mood.

Spiral is a tidy drama laced with a mixture of tension and conflict, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Spiral, Jermyn Street Theatre

Written by  Abi Hood

Directed by Kevin Tomlinson

Running time: 2 hours, including an interval

Booking until 19 August; for more details and to buy tickets, visit the Jermyn Street Theatre website

Related reading:

Review: Monster, Park Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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