BritishTheatre

Published on

June 20, 2024

REVIEW: Bindweed, Mercury Theatre Colchester✭✭✭✭✭

By

pauldavies

Paul T Davies reviews Martha Loader's play Bindweed at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.

Bindweed

The company of Bindweed. Photo: Will Green Bindweed

Mercury Theatre

18 June 2024

5 Stars

A course that four men convicted of domestic abuse offences have to attend weekly, or risk jail or being denied access to their children. Facilitating the group is Jen, moving into social work from the Met, where a distressing domestic murder caused her to have a breakdown. Now she wants to break the circle, to stop the men reoffending. Martha Loader’s outstanding play brings the men and their lives to sharp life, and in the hands of a less skilled playwright, the men could have appeared one dimensional. But the more than two-year development of the play and tremendous research has created an extraordinary, visceral experience, that makes you feel sympathy for all, despite the horrific acts they have committed.

Bindweed

Laura Hanna and Josie Brightwell. Photo: Will Green.

A perfect script meets a perfect cast, this is an excellent ensemble. Laura Hanna is perfect as Jen, showing us the vulnerability as well as her strength, growing as she takes the men on their “journey”, (the play lampoons buzz words brilliantly.) The opening monologue, with its natural rhythms, showcases Loader’s ear for dialogue and realism, draws us in, superbly performed by Sean Kingsley, Brian appears to be “frightenedly normal”, and Moray Treadwell convinces as vicar Frank, who has beaten his wife for forty years but still believes in God’s plan. As Peter, Jen’s disturbing date, and also doubling as Charlie, youngest member of the group, Shailan Gohil brings sensitivity to the role, and Simon Darwen is simply outstanding as sarcastic Mike, the disrupter, who then becomes a firm ally of Jen’s. The beauty of the script and performances is that the layers are peeled away, and we discover these men have experienced violence and have had it presented as a normal way of handling rage. Josie Brightwell keeps us focussed on the women, playing a variety of roles with great stage presence.

Bindweed

Laura Hanna, Shailan Gohil and Simon Darwen. Photo: Will Green

It's all brought together by the perfect pacing of director Jennifer Tang, who allows the play to breathe as we hold our breath, and the set by Lulu Tam uses the studio space to its maximum, chairs, the most domestic of items, in chaos hang over the proceedings. It’s a tough watch, but the humour is sharp, even gallows sharp, and explodes at just the right moments, and the play does end with an offer of hope.  Winner of the Bruntwood Judges Awaed for New Writing, I believe Loader has written a modern-day classic, and I hope it has further life beyond it’s planned runs at the New Wolsey, Ipswich, and the Arcola, London.

Bindweed - New Wolsey Theatre Bindweed - Arcola Theatre

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The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


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ABOUT BRITISHTHEATRE

BritishTheatre.com
Opening Night Media Ltd
3rd Floor, 80 St. Martin’s Lane
Covent Garden
London WC2N 4AA

The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


We are constantly developing the site and are always open to receiving feedback from our readers. Join our mailing list to be kept informed of all the latest news that is of interest to you..