THE DEAD EYE BOY
Hampstead Theatre, London NW3
Opened 21 January, 2002

*** A script with fine potential that keeps tripping itself up

Angus MacLachlan's tale of a North Carolina family of addicts is at its best when it "shows" rather than "tells" the story.

Twenty-nine-year-old Shirley-Diane marries Billy, whom she met at a meeting of some unspecified but drug-related twelve-step recovery programme. Her fourteen-year-old son Soren consistently makes life difficult, by repeatedly goading them into lashing out at him (which Billy resists for an admirably long time) and also by himself becoming a crack user.

MacLachlan writes strong scenes of family interaction and the permanent danger of relapse, given a solid staging by Jennie Darnell and excellent performances by Nicola Walker, Brendan Coyle and young Sid Mitchell. But he alternates these with scenes where people just talk: at a meeting of (Whatever) Anonymous, practising a sales pitch, praying and so forth. This throws intriguing sidelights on the main events, but almost all the core pieces of information are conveyed in these scenes instead of in the drama. The most crucial revelation Soren wants to be hated because he sees himself as a living reminder of his mother's teenage rape ordeal comes when Shirley reads out a story of his in a session with a child psychologist. Yet MacLachlan shows that he can write well enough not to need such anti-dramatic cop-outs.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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