Darkle

First produced in 1989, Bill Gallagher’s script, which won the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, still feels relevant to the issues in contemporary culture. It is often absurdly funny and frequently horrific.

A trio of languorous and indulgent twenty-somethings (played with verve by Lucy Mangan, Lorna Heap and Michael Clarke) think their landlord is horrid and hatch a plan to abduct his dog as punishment. Things soon get horrifyingly out of hand.

As their lonely, tabloid-news obsessed landlord Mr Stringer, David Hayman is exceptional. In one scene, where the three tenants manically retell (or re-imagine) their work days, he sits and listens and I kept peeking to see his reaction. While he does have an annoying habit of letting himself into the flat with his spare set of keys to ask for the rent, throughout the play we begin to empathise with his loneliness and desperation for conversation that the tenants find so inconvenient to their lives. The characters of tenants Brian, Cal and Holly in contrast, become increasingly unlikeable and their loathing of Mr Stringer seems without reason. Just another of their many childish whims. This means that their premeditated act of cruelty is one without true justification – making it all the more heinous.

There’s a lot of mad fun in Sophie Vaughan’s direction and the production is well cast. There’s even a real dog on stage (Paka the spaniel is very convincing as Max and plays well in the ensemble, hardly chewing the scenery and capable of barking on cue)

This black comedy is very black and at times, very difficult to watch. The audience seems divided at some points into those able to laugh and those left cringing in their seats. More often than not, I was cringing. Thinking about it now still makes me feel slightly sick.

Darkle is savage, bold and provocative. I hated it. It’s rather brilliant.

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The Blurb

Darkle: award-winning black comedy by Bill Gallagher. Fuelled by fantasy three young people decide to teach their tabloid-obsessed landlord (David Hayman) a lesson. When they kidnap his beloved dog they set off a chain of events where farce spins into horror. Winner of the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, Darkle is a madcap theatrical outing from acclaimed film and TV writer Gallagher (The Paradise, Larkrise to Candleford, Conviction). A roller-coaster ride of a play, with a tour de force from renowned Scottish actor and director David Hayman, Darkle grabs you by the throat and tightens its grip.