19 July 2016

Theatre: Stalking the Bogeymen

Docudramas seem to be on the up and up recently, and when it comes to theatre their popularity is only growing.  So what is this latest production bringing to the scene?

Stalking the Bogeyman is the latest retelling of a devastating personal story that has taken many forms before this incarnation.  First as a written article in print, then it burst into the wider public consciousness when it appeared on This American Life, one of the world’s most popular Podcasts a few years later.  From there is was re-written for the theatre, with a few US productions before touching down in London for it’s first UK run this week.

The story isn’t for the faint-hearted, it presents David, a man in his twenties, as he plots the murder of the man who raped him, brutally, at the age of just seven.  He assures us that this was no fantasy ‘what if’, this was a plot that was just days away from conclusion when fate intervened.

The Southwark Playhouse’s performance space is a great set up for this performance.  The intimate, thrust-stage stops the audience from distancing themselves from the unfolding drama that happens around them.  This black box was transformed in simple, almost slightly surreal means into a teenager's bedroom in the late 70’s, and you feel as though you are in a sacred, intimate setting, peering in at what is to come.

This isn't any straight tragedy, there is dark humour used throughout.  These moments of light only serve to highlight the darkness and the seriousness of the situation.  The characters in this production aren’t all monsters and hero’s, they are ordinary, all-American boys, with white picket fence families, which just makes it all the more scary.  Anyone can do evil deeds, and that is what happened one night when 7-year-old David was raped by his 14-year-old friend and neighbour Nathan while their parents socialised within the same house.

Mike Evans performs fantastically in the role of Nathan, bringing this complex personality to life.  He combines a child-like-innocence, with a lack of empathy and inability to control his anger that makes him unstable and therefore terrifying.  Evans use of power play here is really significant, and directed excellently.  At times Nathan shows regret and sincerity in such a way that makes you question if it was all a mistake, maybe he didn’t mean it? But in reality we know it was unlikely this could ever be the case.  It does however leave the question with the audience.  Psychopath?  Or a confused, power-mad adolescent?  Does it even matter?  

Likewise Gerard Mccarthy's performance as David shows raw emotion in a way that almost seems effortless.   However this sometimes results in a lack of dramatic tension.  He portrays David in adult life to be drawn to the darker, more risky aspects of human life, without it become despairing or melodramatic.  

From a technical standpoint, both the lighting and sound design here were subtle, but effective.  The sound in particular stuck out as a really strong asset to this performance and although there is nothing ground breaking being shown here, it is a clever technical design.  

This play is beautiful, powerful, and emotional.  Although it is lacking in some parts, it is an important piece of theatre.  Stalking the Bogeyman is on until the 6th of August 2016 at the Southwark Playhouse.  I was invited to review this performance by the people at London Theatre Bloggers.
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