His marriage on the rocks, Tom hires an escort, Leah, who looks like his missing daughter, to spend time with him. The two develop an unlikely but pure friendship, supporting each other through their respective struggles, as Leah battles an abusive relationship and Tom's integrity as a father is called into question.
In her writing, Abigail Hood (playwright and cast-member) presents us with a tumultuous and devastating glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in truly horrid circumstances with an excellent down-to-earth and heartfelt script. The characters she creates are grounded in realism and nuance, and this production is directed – by Kevin Tomlinson (also appearing in the cast) – to further the gritty nature of the piece. Jasper Jacob captures this most exquisitely in his portrayal of a bereft father – his muted and understated performance makes the already-intimate space feel like a cinematic close-up, perfectly toeing the line between letting us see into the mind of this broken-hearted man without it feeling force-fed.
Rebecca Crankshaw tackles the challenging role of grieving mother Gill with overall success, largely choosing bitter anger to channel the character's feelings but shining most in the moments where her frosty veneer cracks.
Abigail Hood's performance of Leah is consistent in character and draws us in with beautiful vulnerability in the most unenviable of moments. She handles extremely difficult and intense scenes – some audience members literally turning away from the action – with the gut-wrenching rawness required. Though at other times, her performance might have been better suited to a larger playing space.
Bringing to life a horribly well-written villain in Mark, Kevin Tomlinson refuses to shy away from the brutality of his character. While we want more depth in the less aggressive moments of Mark's characterisation, the dynamic between Hood and Tomlinson is appropriately unsettling and deeply affecting at its darkest points.
Though Jermyn Street hosts a small performance space to play with, more creative use of the set and tech could have been made to transition scenes and settings more cleanly and clearly. Added to this, the jarring use of generic music between scenes takes the audience out of such intense and emotional story beats.
It's clear that this play has strong potential, not fully realised here, but if you want an intense night out at the theatre, you won't be disappointed!
Spiral runs until 19 August.
Review: Penny Lane