Wednesday 20 July 2016

Stalking The Bogeyman - Review

Southwark Playhouse, London


By Markus Potter and David Holthouse 
with additional writing by Santino Fontana, Shane Zeigler and Shane Stokes
Directed by Markus Potter

Mike Evans and Gerard McCarthy

Stalking The Bogeyman is a brave and challenging play. Co-written with Markus Potter who directs, David Holthouse tells his very personal and true story of having been raped at the age of seven by a neighbour and family friend, and of the impact that the rape was to have upon his life.

Holthouse lived then (and still does to this day) in Alaska where winter, the season in which he was assaulted, is a time of below freezing temperatures and perpetual darkness. The rapist was ten years older than the young Holthouse, an athletic young man who the child idolised.

In a remarkable performance Gerard McCarthy plays David and it is a measure of both well-crafted writing and performance that sensitively portrays the moment of the rape. Before us, the wide-eyed child at play is transformed from a trusting innocent into a violently violated victim. The drama tracks Holthouse until his mid-30s and we witness not so much the appalling physical damage wreaked upon him by the rape, but rather the emotional and psychological aftermath of the attack. As Holthouse comments later in the play, the very rape itself became part of the fabric of his life, a burden that he has to carry with him every single day. When he learns in adult life that his abuser has, by chance, moved into to his town he purchases a gun and plots a murderous revenge.

McCarthy leads a strong company. Opposite him, Mike Evans puts in a carefully weighted performance as The Bogeyman. At no point are either McCarthy or Evans seeking sensationalism in their roles – rather a desperate glimpse into some of humanity’s darkest corners. There’s fine work too from Glynis Barber as Nancy, Holthouses’s mother. Only learning of his abuse years after the event, Nancy’s pain at having been unable to protect her baby from such horror is a finely tuned performance. Likewise, Amy Van Nostrand’s Molly, Holthouse’s drug dealer and a survivor herself is another well-layered turn. Geoffrey Towers and John Moraitis, playing a variety of roles and ages, complete the sextet.

Cleverly staged in the round, Rob Casey’s lighting and Erik T. Lawson’s music subtly enhance the play’s bleakness. Remarkably Stalking The Bogeyman ends on a message of hope, but sat in The Little at Southwark Playhouse, the venue’s walls have been transformed into a scrapbook of references to rape and child exploitation. The message is clear – sexual violence is everywhere.

Runs until 6th August

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