Threads review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘dense, difficult and disquieting’

Samuel Lawrence and Katharine Davenport in Threads at Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli Samuel Lawrence and Katharine Davenport in Threads at Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
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Stark, contrived, and uncomfortable, Threads is a bleak portrait of a toxically dysfunctional relationship from playwright and dramaturg David Lane.

His raw, wilfully impenetrable play focuses on unhinged recluse Charlie, whose inability to move on after a bad breakup strands him in a literal state of living death.

A wild-eyed Samuel Lawrence plays Charlie as a palpably threatening live wire, full of restless unpredictability and liable to explode at any moment. His sudden swerves from whining to screaming paint him as a damaged and entitled child.

Manipulated into rehashing their ugly past, Katharine Davenport’s Vic spends most of the production being berated for her life choices. Davenport drifts awkwardly between emotions, rarely given an opportunity to settle on one for any length of time – although a violent outburst late in the play provides her character with at least a scintilla of agency.

An impressive, immersive set by Jo Jones surrounds the audience, giving Charlie’s cluttered, decaying flat a significant presence of its own. Tangled skeins of exposed wiring hang from the ceiling, glowing faintly as the characters draw close to one another, flashing when they touch. A constant electronic buzzing grates at the edge of hearing, building into weighty throbs of distortion during the moments of greatest tension.

Director Pamela Schermann sets an intense tone from the outset, quickly establishing an oppressive and otherworldly atmosphere. However, a failure to meaningfully develop the play’s central metaphor of co-dependence leaves the production in danger of unravelling entirely.

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Dense, difficult, and disquieting exploration of emotional abuse