The Spiral Path 3 stars
The intimacy of the Maltings Theatre, St Albans – now configured in the round – lends itself very well to this tight, tense story of troubled family relationships in which two young women are married to two brothers who have an appalling, cold, manipulative mother. We shift back and forth through time in what are usually two person scenes as the truth is very gradually revealed.
Claire Jared’s small, blonde, feisty and impassioned Georgina is married to James but it’s failing and James has met someone else even as Georgina’s second child is born. And she is fond of her widowed, troubled brother-in-law, Edward (Jonny D’Spena – finely nuanced, sensitive work). Edward, however, is haunted – physically so in the play – by his dead wife Kirsty (Georgina Bennett) who floats about the playing area with a whiff of Blythe Spirit but this is definitely not a comedy. It’s a serious love triangle which is why the play opens with some symbolic mime.
Amidst all this is Jill Priest’s Edie, one of the least attractive characters I’ve seen in a play for some time. She is icily self centred and very unkind both “now” and in the things she’s done in the past. There is, for example, a backstory about Edward’s childhood friendship with a boy called Pete from whom we eventually hear some letters (voice over by Matthew Philip Harris). Priest gives a compelling, convincing account of this deeply unpleasant – but hideously plausible – woman.
It all hangs together pretty coherently. As the man sitting next to me commented. “The good thing about theatre is that you have to engage with it and apply your own intelligence – unlike a lot of film when it’s all spelled out for you”. Nonetheless I was a bit puzzled by the play’s opening scene which doesn’t sit quite right with the rest of it. Harry, a smart, plummy voiced man with the beginnings of dementia is waiting for his wife in a Mayfair café where he meets Kirsty and confuses her with his wife. Paul Manuel gives a spot-on performance as Harry. I’ve seen, and lived with dementia at very close quarters in my own family and Manuel has it perfectly. He also gives a wonderfully moving account of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 at the end which, in a sense, sums up the whole play. On balance though, I’d like to see Harry in a different play and keep The Spiral Path entirely focused on its central plot.
First published by Sardines: https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/the-spiral-path/