Saturday, 25 November 2017
Review The Secondary Victim
A play dealing with the emotional and professional life of a beleaguered therapist ultimately disappoints Peter Barker.
The Secondary Victim
by Matthew Campling
The vulnerability of a professional therapist whose work with clients takes place behind closed doors takes centre stage in Matthew Campling's drama The Secondary Victim.
A woman psychotherapist with family problems of her own is accused by a client of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards him.
There is a lot of potential for an intriguing and credible story when both denial and charges of abuse depend on on one person's word against another.
With his own experience of disproven professional misconduct accusations, Campling could have written a fascinating insight into a normally hidden world.
The playwright's own varied career has also included a psychotherapy practice, work as a magazine agony uncle and a spell as an expert on chat shows.
Nevertheless, while the first half of this play lasting over two and a half hours, has absorbing moments, overall The Secondary Victim is marred by a dramatically unsatisfying and implausible structure.
Despite this, director Matthew Gould has gathered together an impressive cast including Susannah Doye who gives a careful and precise performance as psychotherapist Ali.
After the complaints of the troubled patient, Hugo, played by Michael Hanratty, she is accused of misconduct and brought before her professional association's disciplinary tribunal.
However many of the situations forced upon the actors feel far-fetched and contrived, with the writer trying to shoehorn several of different plots into one.
Gary Webster as husband Victor makes valiant efforts as her husband with a passionate portrayal of a loving spouse unhappy at sharing his wife with her professional duties as a therapist.
However the root of failed businessman Victor's jealousy and its exposition by Campling lacks credibility.
There are another couple of plots involving a patient Teddy - Christopher Laishley - facing criminal charges and the personal relationship of Ali's own therapist with another therapist.
The latter has some comedy but the script feels unreal. The play becomes muddled and overlong with longeurs and often a lack of substance and depth. Doyle as Ali is allowed to give the best performance but director Matthew Gould seems to struggle with the clunky writing.
The subject matter has potential but the work feels very much like a play in development rather than a finished piece and The Secondary Victim garners a red light.