The Secondary Victim at Park Theatre
Amid the current atmosphere of sexual harassment revelations, Matthew Campling’s The Secondary Victim, directed by Matthew Gould, asks whether we have become too much a culture of blame; and who are the victims with regard to misconduct allegations?
Susannah Doyle plays Ali, a happily married, highly respected therapist whose life is going well when she is suddenly accused of sexual transgressions by a former client. Thereafter her world is in a tailspin and she risks losing everything. The accuser, Hugo (Michael Hanratty) – a disturbed young man – does not waver in his claims while Ali insists she is innocent. A case of he says/she says, the question is who is telling the truth, who is misconstruing facts or who is lying? A formal enquiry ensues and Ali is thrust into a battle for her life.
A seasoned performer, Doyle is remarkable in her moving portrayal of an esteemed professional whose world is turned upside down, her reputation badly damaged by these complaints. Gary Webster as her confused husband Victor and Natasha Bain as therapist supervisor Marilyn are excellent. Hanratty is very convincing as the distressed Hugo.
Writer Matthew Campling is a psychotherapist who underwent a similar experience in 2014 when he was accused of malpractice. Although exonerated, the episode was profoundly stressful for him. His tenth-produced theatrical work, The Secondary Victim expresses his frustration with a society in which accusation is enough to ruin a reputation, a career, one’s relationships and one’s peace of mind before a fair trial has taken place. The idea of being “innocent until proven guilty” has been reversed to “guilty until proven innocent”.
The play asks: are we endlessly seeking wrongdoing as a way of punishing others for our unhappiness; and why are we so unable to forgive? In this internet era in which so much is public and news travels fast, do we need to invest more focus on fair trials before we judge? Campling is not proposing that we don’t protect victims, only that we don’t destroy lives before we justly determine the truth.
Presenting intriguing and perceptive questions about a society that tends to place excessive value on hearsay before knowing the facts, The Secondary Victim is a poignant, well-constructed, thought-provoking piece.
Photo: Matthew House
The Secondary Victim is at Park Theatre from 14th November until 9th December 2017. For further information or to book visit the Park Theatre website here.