Park Theatre (venue)
17 November 2017 (released)
19 November 2017
‘The Secondary Victim’, is a testament to the draw of no frills, character driven theatre. Set in the round with just four chairs and swift, clean lighting to delineate new spaces, director, Matthew Gould shines a light on the psychology of the characters in the intimate space of Park90. With a running time of 2hrs 40, and most scenes set in ‘therapy rooms’ it just goes to show that all that’s needed to keep an audience engaged is convincing human interactions and high stakes all round. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
The hit American TV series, ‘ In Treatment’ proved how watchable therapy sessions were to a wide audience and this intelligent new play has the same appeal. Written by therapist, Matthew Campling, the many tedious hours of real life therapy are happily skipped, as we enter the narrative at a point where two ‘client’ lives are coming to a head. Childlike Teddy (Christopher Laishley) has been inviting underage girls he meets through work at the gym back to his house and Hugo (Michael Hanratty) has made a formal complaint against his therapist as memories of early abuse surface.
What makes this more than a window into imagined therapy sessions is the opportunity to see into the lives of the therapists at the same time. Ali, played entirely convincingly by Susannah Doyle is seeing clients in her sitting room, after her husbands bankruptcy and young therapist Jonny (Gary Webster) faces his own romantic struggles. This set up offers a delicious chance for the audience to listen (like attentive therapists) on seats only a couple of feet away from the client sessions and then to the aftermath for the therapists as both parties unravel. If anyone is under the allusion that being a therapist is an inactive role, the intense emotional experience of attempting to engage with another human beings inner life is dramatically explored, not mention the ‘realities’ of mis-conduct complaints and every therapists nightmare – client suicides.
The cast work together at a pace and intensity that rarely drops throughout the many scenes changes. But it’s the relationship between exhausted therapist, Ali (Susannah Doyle) and damaged, manipulative Hugo (Michael Hanratty) that has a fascination and complexity that drives the narrative. If we are tempted to sit in judgment of either clients or therapists, the character of the therapists supervisor reminds us that nobody has the higher ground here, she too is imperfect and unfaithful.