Noah McCreadie has scored a triumph with his debut play Getaway/Runaway and the intimacy of the King’s Head Theatre provides the perfect setting for this intense drama from Shot In The Dark Theatre Company
Haunting and captivating exploration of the human psyche
Four characters sit on chairs against the rear wall of the thrust stage. They are motionless, intently gazing into the dimly lit void in front of them. Each will become embroiled in the uncomfortable family gathering that will soon ensue. For now, they can merely reflect upon their pasts, anticipate the imminent encounters and wonder what their futures might hold. Mark (Chris Moore), whose bi-polar wife left him when he went to prison, has recently been released, though he will never be free from the fear of going back to the alcoholism which previously consumed him. He’s living with his new partner, Alice (Coline Atterbury), a woman who shrouds herself in mystery and probably has a history that is better left unexplored, judging by some of her comments. Her manner is unnerving and leaves room for endless speculation. Rising from their seats Mark’s two children arrive one after the other. They are going to stay with their estranged father (and by default, Alice) for the first time since his release. Given their uneasy previous relationship with him that meeting could prove difficult in itself, but Eliot (Nye Occomore) brings with him the burden of currently being accused of rape by his ex-girlfriend. His sister, Saoirse (Kiera Murray), is rather the odd one out in this quartet; she is actually fairly normal, with nothing major going on, nor anything to hide, except dealing with her family She has just to carry the baggage of being surrounded by the others.
Awkward moments abound in this drama that is full of suspense and has the unnerving edge of a Hitchcock thriller, riddled with power games, gaslighting and dysfunctionality. McCreadie wrote the initial draft in his last term at the Oxford School of Drama, since when it has emerged with revisions via an intense period of research and development combined with workshops that elicited widespread input. The benefits of this process shine through. The language is focussed and economical and the storyline tightly structured. Each character fills out in a drip-feed of revelations and the dynamic passes from one to the other as insights emerge. There are moments of humour; repartee gives relief from the sustained intensity, but they are passing, as the complexity of each character builds up and the story progresses.
McCreadie speaks enthusiastically of being partnered with Hannah McLeod as co-director in this staging, who skilfully directed the company’s debut production, Cheer Up Slug at the Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham. The doubling has added to the insights brought to the production and heightened the sensitivities that play out in the intense sixty minutes. Getaway/Runaway has the fervour of closely-knit team with members who understand and compliment each other. There are fine performances throughout. Occomore exudes a troubled demeanour that gives him an air of mystery even before we know the full extent of his problems. Murray reaches out to him with sisterly concern but she also shows the stress of the situation that's complicated by having to deal with her father and that woman. However she knows her father well, but still depairs at his situation while Moore captures the regrets of a man whose life went wrong and who continues to live with the guilt. Atterbury, meanwhile, portrays the most puzzling of characters, relishing the release of snippets from her past while remaining an enigma. Her revelations simply beg more questions while her currents motives are shrouded and probably cause for suspicion. She merits a play of her own; we’re all begging to know more.
Added to this must be an appreciation of the evocative original score and sound design by Johnny Edwards. It’s simbiosis with the text is a vital part of the production and is present throughout. At times it lingers hauntingly in the background sustaining the air of creepy mystery and nervous suspense that permeates the play, but there are also moments of dramatic crescendos that rise to accompany arguments and scenes of personal torment, before fading again to a pianissimo that keeps us on edge. It’s another triumph in itself.
In one understated description of the play McCreadie describes it merely as ‘a twisted and darkly comedic family drama’. The simplicity of that statement, whilst true, does no justice to what is a haunting and captivating exploration of the human psyche.