Stalking the Bogeyman – Southwark Playhouse

Writer: Markus Potter &David Holthouse
Director: Markus Potter
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty


Written first as an article in a Denver newspaper, recorded for an episode of the US radio show This American Life, then reimagined as a play, the true story of the writer David Holthouse’ rape as a seven-year-old boy and his plan to kill the man who abused him is not an easy story to experience. Though that difficulty for the average audience member is surely insignificant when compared to that of the to the writer himself, who through this extended piece of gonzo journalism reportage has created therapy, catharsis and revenge in an 85-minute emotional battering ram.

Tightly told through flashbacks to key events with a present day conclusion, we’re taken in detail through the night of the rape, the immediate aftermath, the longer term mental and familial impact to David and the forensically detailed plot to murder his abuser. While focusing on David and his “Bogeyman” we also see the damage this sort of abuse can have on the families, with both sets of parents involved and represented well in the story throughout (the rapist was the son of David’s parent’s friends).

Given the task of playing David, when the real David is heavily involved with the production, can be no easy task, but Gerard McCarthy has found a seam of unnerving energy within himself and used it to power a great performance. Through him the fear, shame, instability and anger flow from that horrific event and push the play into brave territory, a stark account of the impact of child-rape. As the Bogeyman, much credit should go to Mike Evans for the nervous violence rippling through the character, and the almost unbelievable feat of making his character almost sympathetic during his breakdown. Supported well with the rest of the cast throughout, the performances are strong throughout with depth and obvious care taken even in the smaller roles.

To support a piece of this depth, the overall aesthetics are key and the designs by Rachel Stone, with lighting and sound by Rob Casey and David Gregory, are no slouch. Stark and sharply angled sparse furniture, disrupted storage and a wall filled with clippings from a changed adulthood and a childhood that can no longer exist provide an ideal supportive atmosphere to this work.

It’s clear to see the motivations Holthouse had for writing this. Revenge against his attacker is one thing, and achieved well here in place of the bullet from his previous revenge plot, but the wider impact this work has and what it represents is potentially more important. Frank and open discussion about rape whether child or adult, male or female, is an important weapon against existing and would-be abusers. Through his work, David Holthouse is leading this conversation and exposition of a hateful, dark crime in a very public way, showing other survivors a bravery they may seek to emulate.

Through the strong medium of this talented and committed cast and crew, that message is presented excellently on the London stage, a hopeful beacon playing until August on Newington Causeway.
Runs until 6 August 2016 | Image: Contributed


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A Hopeful Beacon

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