Every parent’s nightmare- that of a stranger taking their child away- is explored in Frances Poet’s first full-length play, inspired by her own anxieties as a new mum. When babysitting mother-in-law Morven (Lorraine McIntosh) struggles with two trays at a supermarket café, she entrusts a complete stranger to take her grandson Joshua to the loo. Once her son, laid-back Rory (Peter Collins) and his wife Maddy (Kirsty Stuart) get wind of this, they are furious.
Thus begins a study in mental anguish, propelling an already fretful Maddy over the precipice of paranoia. Stranger danger is ubiquitous, represented by George Anton in pink shirt in a number of roles as strangers, all seemingly well-meaning.
As Maddy becomes increasingly crazed with worry, it is clear something has been triggered within her. Abuse as a child herself, perhaps? Maybe not dealing with the death of her own mother? It is never stated, but simply left open to interpretation. The love and respect between Maddy and Rory is palpable, reinforced by the lovely monologue about watching her blossom as a mother, but Rory has to reconcile her misguided choices with losing the stable, capable woman he fell for: after an act of cruelty by Maddy to Joshua, a lesson to test his limitations, she is sent away to an institution.
Poet’s writing is tender, beautiful and true , scrutinising the cut-off point where fear of the outside world is potentially more threatening for a child’s welfare than letting him run free. Stuart, Collins and McIntosh are superb, portraying the shift in dynamics with ease in Zinnie Harris’ intuitive direction . Anton as the everyman consistently moves between various masculine types- from lost, vulnerable man in a bereavement counselling class , to the chatty neighbour who wants his son to play with Joshua.
Fred Meller’s set further enhances the claustrophobia- frosty split screens evoking both the difference in parenting styles; and the fragility of the mind. Lego bricks are thrown to the floor, creating the chaos of a family on the brink of collapse. And even if it all resolves a little too easily, it’s a deeply unnerving piece which resonates for a long time, clanging like a warning bell.
Reviewed at Tron Theatre, run ended