views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Hamlyn
The Space
26th April 2014

★★★★☆

Hamlyn publicity image

Photography provided by The Space

It's often said that you never really know what goes on behind closed doors. Montero (Tyrone Lopez) may be one of the legal profession's rising stars, with his face splashed in the papers and all over television for tackling crime and corruption. However, as brave as he is in his work life, he's quietly terrified of confronting problems closer to home. His wife, Julia (Constanza Ruff) needs him to help keep their son on the rails, but instead he throws all his energy into trying to save underprivileged 10-year-old Josemari (also Ruff) from a suspected child abuser, Rivas (Alex Andreou).

Much like the venue's last production, In This House, this isn't a nice story, and it does deal with some difficult ideas and themes. Piles of brightly coloured paper and frantic chalk scribblings on the black walls and floors are cleverly used by designer Jeffrey Michael to create an effective set out of very little. The colours are innocent and childlike, with the backdrop stark, and the messy doodling conveying all the thoughts and emotions bouncing around in Montero's head as he tries to process them.

Lopez's eyes are frequently glazed over, as his character compartmentalises what he knows - and what he thinks he knows - trying to cope with the pressure of an incredibly emotionally challenging job. Lopez presents a calm, measured individual, with all kinds of anxiety bubbling just beneath the surface. This contrasts well with the passion of child psychologist Raquel Galvez (Lilian Schiffer), who is also taken to dark places by her work, but who can't help but be moved by what she sees. Whether Montero is right in his actions is to be debated, but he's certainly an expert at burying his emotions.

Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga's script, as translated by David Johnston, is deeply critical of government intervention in individuals' lives. Despite the best intentions of Montero and Raquel Galvez, they perpetually cross lines, doggedly trying to save the city from a problem which they haven't proved is real. Montero's investigation doesn't come up with a smoking gun, but it is clear that it splinters Josemari's family, with his parents Feli (Elena Alexandra) and Paco (Bernard Bullen) devastated by the outcome. There are plenty of questions left hanging in the air, but not over Feli and Paco's anguish.

Constanza Ruff and Lilian Schiffer as Josemari and Raquel Galvez

Photography provided by The Space

But director Sandra Maturana manages to straddle the line between a piece of political commentary and a more human story. This isn't a mere soapbox, it's got far more depth to it. The commentator (Ben Borowiecki) often points out how difficult it is to talk to your own children, trying to justify Montero's neglect of his wife and child, sounding less and less convinced each time he repeats himself. Although Montero does fail to support his family, it's easy to empathise with the pressure he's under, and the difficulty of trying to find a work/life balance.

There is a lot to applaud about Hamlyn, including how even the murkiest of characters retain some ambiguity, but it's way that the story of the Piped Piper dances in the background that makes it so haunting. Children's stories are often darker than you would expect (see anything else by the Grimm Brothers for reference), and the Piped Piper is no exception. An old story of a man driving out the rats at the cost of the city's children? Is this foreshadowing, or simply a way of showing Montero's darkest fears - that he isn't quite the hero he hopes to be?

Hamlyn succeeds in not only making its point, but doing so with a great deal of flair. Never mind capturing rats, in-house theatre company Space Productions certainly know how to capture an audience.

Hamlyn ran from 22nd April to 9th May 2014 at The Space.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)



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