Playhouse, Salisbury – until 7 April 2018. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
When the start of this play begins with someone being saved from attempting suicide and you hear the words, “your life belongs to me now” you get the uneasy feeling there is something sinister in store. Having snatched Little Joe (Dean Smith) from the jaws of a London tube train, Sandor Wincanton (Joe Eyre) makes it perfectly clear that in saving the young man’s life there is a price that he must pay for such an act. Joe swiftly becomes Sandor’s Gallowglass, someone indebted to another for saving their life but Joe does not at first understand the price of what is in store.
In contrast we are presented with Nina (Florence Cady) a rich young woman who we find out was kidnapped and held to ransom years earlier in Italy. Life hasn’t changed that much for her, since her ordeal, she has just changed the prison she was held in by the kidnappers to one of her own making in her luxury home in Suffolk which she shares with her current rich older husband Ralph (Richard Walsh). Surrounded by security technology that keeps her safe and a live in chauffeur Paul Garnett (Paul Opacic) who is there to take care of her, there is no escape from being under someone’s control!
Sadly, the potential of the opening drifts away into a blandness that is lost in a rather slow and uninspiring production and script. From the pedestrian and somewhat clunky scenery changes to the characters that have so little invested in them it is difficult to care about what they do. The use of back projections worked well and it anchored the time in which the scenes took place particularly so if you knew the eras the posters were from.
There are moments of respite when Joe’s foster sister Tilley (Rachael Hart) arrives as her character is an enthusiastic addition to the plot and who ups the ante by spending her time urging the two men on in their plan to kidnap Nina again. The arrival of Sandor’s mother Diana (Keren Drury) is a welcome relief as we see how her overbearing relationship with her son is possibly the root to both of their problems; his attachment to Nina and her attachment to alcohol.
I am sure had the writing been better and the production slicker there would have been greater opportunity for the cast to shine, but they have little to work on. Smith does his best as Joe and there is potential for more to be made of this character if only the writing would allow.
Overall there is a distinct lack of pace to this piece and a feeling of wanting to speed things up, both in the writing and the set design. If the writer doesn’t invest in its characters then why would the audience care about them?