Review – Out of Shot, Periscope Theatre, Flash Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year Acting Students, Castle Hill, Northampton, 26th April 2018

Flash FestivalIt goes without saying the domestic abuse is an appalling crime. What is it that can turn a strong, loving husband and wife unit into a minefield of violence and cruelty, both physical and mental. Each partner can accuse the other of all sorts of despicable acts, but if a secret video could be set up, to capture what actually happens between the two of them, that would be proof positive to identify the guilty party. Wouldn’t it? Maybe sometimes it’s what happens out of shot that is the more revealing.

Out of ShotPeriscope’s gripping little thriller is an intense and terrifying play involving the investigations of PC Robinson into the allegations of domestic abuse at the home of Siena and Andrew. We see the happy early days, where Andrew’s sister Emily is the unconventional Best Man toasting the married couple good luck on their wedding day. We see them move into their new place and create a home together. But it’s not long till the neighbour can hear the arguments through the walls; the raised voices, the indeterminate threats. The neighbour offers Siena a safe sanctuary where she can escape the terror of domestic abuse.

Gracia Stewart-HoggExcept that she’s got it wrong. It’s Siena who’s abusing Andrew; and the moment we see her hurling him on the floor is a fantastic coup de theatre that takes your breath away. It’s she who demands that he gives her all his income, so that he has to beg for a little change to get through the week. It’s she who refuses him permission to see his family or his friends. It’s she who rings in sick for him at work, even though he wants to go. It’s she who humiliates and mentally castrates him. It’s she who delivers the blood curdling screams – not of fear, but of intimidation, as she knocks him out, kicks him in the crotch and leaves him a bloody mess on the floor.

Robert BarnesBut in interview, she’s all sweetness and light; feigning kindness towards him because he’s stressed at work, or maybe drinks a little too much; and his protestations of innocence just sound way too far-fetched to be believable. Fortunately there’s the video evidence to show exactly what happened….or is that just an elaborate charade, choreographed for the police’s benefit?

Zoe ElizabethGracia Stewart-Hogg gives a superb and, frankly, terrifying performance as Siena, her steely eyes penetrating her victim’s failing mental stability so that he doesn’t know how to react, her unhinged shrieking used as both an attack and defence mechanism, her vicious assaults creating pain and injury. It’s so easy for the casual onlooker simply to question, why did he put up with it, but Robert Barnes is also brilliant at conveying the reasons why Andrew stayed. Primarily he still loved her and wanted to help her through what he would have hoped to be a temporary mental illness on her part. I have to say, my heart went out to him! Zoe Elizabeth takes the other roles and is particularly impressive in the part of Andrew’s irreverent sister Emily, trying to put her finger on exactly what is wrong with the relationship; and as the firm but not entirely fair police officer.

A scary play that would make you very nervous about committing to a relationship! I hope Mr Barnes wore lots of padding.