Writer: Nathan Lucky Wood
Director: Jennifer Davis
Reviewer: Deborah Parry
Since the internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives, a number of playwrights have successfully explored it as a theme within their work (Lucy Prebble’s The Sugar Syndrome, Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information and Enda Walsh’s Chatroom, to name but a few) and now Nathan Lucky Wood’s A Haunting can certainly be added to the list.
A dark, sharply written and occasionally funny play, A Haunting is a one act three-hander that starts off reminiscent of Channel 4’s 2015 disturbing drama Cyberbully but soon finds an original pathway into unexpected territory. Part of The King Head Theatre’s #festival46 of new writing, the play demonstrates that giving credence to your nearest and dearest can be as complex as trusting a complete stranger.
Mark is an unexceptional teenager who is, unexceptionally, using the internet to play games via and chat with strangers – or, rather, one particular stranger whose voice is creepy enough to make us feel very uneasy before he’s even said anything hugely sinister. It is clear that a young teenager should not be engaging in conversation with this person and we and wait for things to, inevitably, take a turn for the worse.
Where are Mark’s parents, we wonder…cue his mother- who is out drinking late into the night with work colleagues and, has a permissive parenting style, which equates to neglectful (she fails to pick up on the discomfort in her son’s voice and, instead, encourages him to go to a party – which is clearly more for her benefit than his). With his father away on a business trip – it leaves Mark with a dilemma, the only person who is listening to him makes him feel uncomfortable but at least he is being heard – so what should he do?
Actors James Thackeray (Mark), Jake Curran (Ghost) and Beatrice Curnew (Anna) are terrific, as is Jennifer Davis’s direction – she makes inventive use of the space and the cast deliver clear and confident characterisations, no doubt due to a thorough and explorative rehearsal process.
What could descend into a clichéd piece about cyberbulling and/or inappropriate conduct from an adult towards a minor actually becomes far more developed and interesting. Rather than sit on the laurels of simplicity, Nathan Lucky Wood uses the meeting of two characters as a point of complex exploration and builds upon the interaction until an engaging and unexpected crescendo. His sharp script keeps us enthralled throughout and as the title suggests – continues to haunt us long after the applause has died down.
Runs until 30 July 2016 | Image: Chris Tribble