Dirty Promises at the Hope
Like a Shakespearean tragicomedy, Dirty Promises launches with high energy and laughter, but descends a slope of horror and heartbreak, gathering speed like a boulder down a mountain, to reach its gut-wrenching conclusion. Lilly Driscoll’s tale of domestic abuse is beautifully crafted and interwoven with moments of spoken word poetry. It’s her very first play, and it is running as part of the Hopefull Festival alongside the works of other emerging writers.
Drew and Crabby are mates: a couple of London lads with a bloke-ish rapport, one always trying to sell stolen goods to the other. One day, Drew brings Crabby back to his home, where he introduces Crabby to his girlfriend Lucy. Drew is bemused to find that Lucy, who seems perfectly normal in every other way, keeps a paper bag over her head at all times.Raw and confronting subject matter is further pressurised by the tiny space in which the play is set: a 50-seat black box studio that barely contains the drama. So close to the action, you feel uncomfortably and helplessly implicated in every harrowing scene. We squirm at the domestic abuse yet find ourselves tenderly pitying both parties. The past and other characters are subtly referred to without ever being fully explained, leaving us to paint the picture.
Vignettes of spoken-word monologue peppered through the play bestow the sudden gift of eloquence for characters who can’t otherwise express themselves. Well-written and honest, they lend Driscoll’s script a distinctive style of her own.
The three actors bring the characters to life with laudably naturalistic performances. The relationships between each of them unfurl with fullness and complexity. Michael Lyle is a likeable streak of energy as Crabby, very much at his ease kicking off the play with a stint of immersive audience participation. Jed O’Hagan’s Drew exudes a quiet menace, which later erupts into frightening ferocity, but manages to present the vulnerability of a hurt child in other moments. He is a man who seems to feel more than anybody else, on both ends of the spectrum. Kirsty J Curtis’ Lucy is a burning fuse with desperation in her eyes.
An evocative ending and some unanswered questions leaves the audience to do its own deciphering. It’s a story that will hit you hard and remain with you when the lights go up.
Dirty Promises is on at Hope Theatre from 16th until 30th August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.