Abigail Hood’s play Spiral takes place against a jagged promenade in an anonymous seaside town.
The seedy associations of such a milieu are taken to grotesque levels in the opening scene. A middle-aged man meets with a young woman dressed as a schoolgirl in order to act out an insidious father-daughter role play. It transpires that Tom’s (Adam Morris) motivations are more complex than mere perversion: he has hired Leah (played by Hood herself) for therapeutic – so he says – rather than sexual reasons, due to her resemblance to his 15-year-old daughter, Sophie, a daddy’s girl who disappeared six months earlier.
It’s uncomfortable stuff. Hood’s writing and the production by Glen Walford and Kevin Tomlinson exerts a grim fascination throughout, strongly played by the cast of four.
An intelligent woman crushed by the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of her abhorrent boyfriend/pimp (played by Tomlinson), Leah is desperately in need of a women’s refuge, not a surrogate father figure. Hood and Morris create a rapport that is Freudian in the extreme, co-dependency based on loss and emotional damage.
The plot fails to convince in places. Even in his wrecked state, it’s hard to believe that Tom, a teacher, would inflict even more injury on his reputation by moving Leah into the family home as soon as his wife Gill (Tracey Wilkinson) leaves, flaunting a relationship that no one else, least of all Gill, could possibly believe to be platonic.
The unexpectedly uplifting ending is perhaps overly optimistic – though to end on a downbeat note would be too much to bear.