Monday, 14 August 2017
by Abigail Hood
Dangling tries to cover a lot of issues - missing children, fathers who are wrongly suspected, those who may have and those who have committed crimes, abusive relationships, the effect on marriages, all interlaced with hints of recent sex abuse news stories.
Charlotte is a London escort girl who may once have been a runaway and has ended up in the hands of a manipulative pimp Matt (Christopher Lane). Her world collides with Greg (Jasper Jacob), a teacher and father of a missing girl and then also Greg's wife, Jane (Tracey Wilkinson).
Seemingly running parallel are the lives in Oldham of Danny (Philip D McQuillan) and his younger sister, Kate (Charlotte Brooke) with an unstable mother Helen (Maggie Saunders) and a violent jailbird father Ken (Ian Gain).
This new play by Abigail Hood. who also plays Charlotte, attempts additionally to include a psychological filter of 20th century screen culture through Danny's friend Kev (Stephen Boyce) and parent Helen.
Dangling has a strong cast and some powerful moments. However ultimately this is is a play that becomes a prisoner of its own concept and has what feels like a mix of devised drama shoehorned into a schematic framework.
On hooks from the ceiling dangle objects from the characters' lives and director Kevin Tomlinson uses long grey benches at first effectively to create the different stage spaces on an otherwise minimal set with few land-level props.
Nevertheless the scene changes with different bench combinations, alhtough ingenious, become a little wearisome when this theatre piece reveals itself increasingly to be written mostly as a televisual and not a stage drama
The actors also have to grapple with clumsy shifts in tone. In addtition to soap style drama and melodrama, there are some, admittedly quite subtle, surreal time shift mash ups and the sudden introduction of an element which reminded TLT of a celebrated plot from now defunct soap Brookside with a touch of Tennessee Williams and Joe Orton thrown in for good measure.
TLT did wonder whether the lives of blonde Charlotte and dark haired Kate might eventually merge into one as there is the implication of a circular trajectory to the piece, but this never happened, at least not explicitly.
Instead there are heartfelt moments, with some effective lines probably garnered from research, and every member of the cast is given an opportunity to shine at some point during the play.
However it's a patchwork of issue driven drama about missing and abused children, while certainly all subject matter deserving examination, and ready-formed characters yoked uneasily together rather than an organically grown plot.
There is an intriguing ambivalence in the character of Greg but ultimately this feels like the first draft of possbilities for a TV drama trying to adhere to a stage format rather than a thought-through stage drama in its own right and it's an amber light.