“A challenging complex play that seeks to explore the dynamics of a father/daughter relationship”
The latest work from award-winning writer Jody Medland has opened at Barons Court Theatre and runs until September 22nd.
The Unspoken tells the story of Jimmy, a widowed miner struggling to cope with life. Living with his daughter Maggie, blind since birth, he keeps her as a slave and prisoner in the mistaken belief he is protecting her from the evils of the outside world.
In the confines of the basement space of the Curtain’s Up pub, home to Barons Court Theatre, the isolation of Maggie kept chained in one room when not ‘doing chores’ is evocative. With only a crackly radio for company when her Father is at work, Hannah Tarrington is impressive as Maggie, a young woman brainwashed into believing her life is good, she lives in a large ‘palace’, her Father is a respected architect and they eat venison and duck, when the reality is a tiny hovel, poor rations and a brutish Father who regularly beats her. She hears the voice of her dead Mother telling her he loves her really and promises better things to come. A dying Jimmy, full of conflicting emotions and convincingly played by Will Teller, returns home from work one afternoon, remorseful of his treatment of Maggie, while the subsequent arrival of Dr Rose will change her life forever……
The Unspoken is a challenging complex play that seeks to explore the dynamics of a father/daughter relationship. In itself, a complicated subject for any play, however, there are so many other issues alluded to in just 60 minutes there are more questions than answers and as a result serves to lessen the belief in the main story.
The unseen visitor at the front door, claiming to be a priest and who tries to tempt Maggie to let him in, is revealed to be a convicted sex offender – an example of the ‘bad’ from which Maggie needs protecting from by her Father, but this just over complicates and distracts. Jimmy unable to save his brother Robbie in an accident at the pit, a memory of putting an injured bird out of its misery prompting the idea of killing Maggie to end her misery, is too much, as the audience already understands the desperation of the Father and his situation. Similarly, the level of violence he inflicts early on somewhat reduces any sympathy for his plight and it is vital to care for both Father and Daughter if you’re to go along with the play’s premise.
Dr Rose is also presented as an ‘outsider’ who does not fit in due to his disability following an accident and it’s perhaps a little too simplistic to accept that he would be in love with someone he’s never met based on her Father’s wishes for her to be looked after. Elliot Blagden displays a touching sympathy in his portrayal especially when he surveys the conditions from which he plans to rescue Maggie and would have liked him introduced sooner.
Writer Jody Medland is also the Director and it can be terribly hard to ‘let go’ of some aspects of your hard work, even if it would benefit in the long run, so completely understand why he’s tried to keep so much of it included. It would be interesting to see how an independent Director would have approached the play but all credit to anyone bringing new writing to the stage and keeping fringe theatre alive and this should be applauded and encouraged.
Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Road, London W14 9HR Tickets: email@example.com