Pros: A dreamy, cinematic aesthetic that relies more on illusion than concrete detail. This fresh approach keeps you guessing and asking questions in your compulsion to find the truth of the narrative.
Cons: There is a sense of incompleteness arising from the lack of a concrete resolution to the story, though this is probably truer to real life.
As the lights come up on this play called Hamlyn, one man is presenting to a group of journalists about a big story of which they will have the scoop. We know they have been shown evidence – of what, is only alluded to, not told – and we know they are disgusted by it. We do not know the role of the man feeding the journalists this information, all we know is that he is plagued by the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlyn and is desperate to rid his own city of its ‘rats’. We do not know what story we are going to get; whether this man is friend or foe; or in what world or universe the story will transpire.
However, with a narrator – or commentator as he is named in the programme – foregrounding the man’s, and soon other characters’, every move and thought, we are immediately enveloped in the story, its urgency, and this man’s quest.
As it turns out, the story does unfold in this world, and the man is a judge named Montero (Tyrone Lopez), pursuing a high profile case: a potential paedophile ring led by an imminent member, campaigner and benefactor of the community. While Montero seeks justice, particularly for the primary ten-year old male victim of the case, he struggles with his home life and raising his own son. Over the course of the evening this dark and urgent piece raises many questions about the subjects it explores – which are in no way black or white – but doesn’t foolishly attempt to provide the answers too.
While the set consists of just a few chairs, the visuals of the story are mostly conjured up with rustic drawings, which are drawn by the actors live on stage onto blackboard walls. Props are minimal, and a few simple but key lighting and sound cues accompany the verbal descriptions presented by the commentator. Together these elements create the world of the story in the audience’s mind perhaps more vividly than multiples of detailed and complex sets.
The lack of concrete sets and elaborate costumes, along with the self-aware narrative, give the play a cinematic quality. An emphasis on movement within the piece added to this filmic sense but on occasion did seem mildly abstract and out of place; specifically in scenes with the young victim.
The casting has been carefully and cleverly doubled in places so that Montero’s wife (with whom he is going through a ‘bad patch’) and the young boy at the centre of the case are both played stoically and convincingly by the same actor, Constanza Ruff. This is an interesting parallel that positions Montero’s wife as the victim of his career ambition – a discomforting comparison as we are initially placed to see Montero as ‘the good guy’.
Most performances are sensitive and passionate, presenting no one character as infinitely good or bad but with complex layers to their perspective and story – an approach that puts the narrative control in the audience’s hands.
While the subject matter is obviously quite brutal, this is a gripping production that, like a good television police drama, draws the audience in on the same quest for justice and answers as the characters themselves.
Author: Juan Mayorga
Translator: David Johnston
Director: Sandra Maturana
Producer: Adam Hemming, Space Productions
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/event-booking/?event=Hamlyn
Booking Until: 9th May 2014