STALKING THE BOGEYMAN
by Markus Potter & David Holthouse
additional writing Santino Fontana, Shane Zeigler & Shane Stokes.
3 stars ***
Southwark Playhouse To 06 August
The Little, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 6August 2016.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Tues & Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 75 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Willliam Russell 15 July.
Impressive, heart-rending tale of child rape
In 1978 in Anchorage seven year old David Holthouse was raped by the 14 year old son of the next door neighbours. His parents were upstairs playing cribbage with the boy’s parents and the two children had gone down to the basement to play. The games they were playing got out of control.
The older boy convinced David Holthouse to say nothing to his parents. They avoided one another after that, the family moved away from Anchorage and Holthouse, who has been plagued with nightmares about the bogeyman, embarked on a career in journalism.
He has now turned that experience into a play. It is a powerful piece of work both as drama and as a polemic which seeks to give a voice to those who have survived such attacks who have kept silent out of shame and denial, and been unable to tell anyone what has happened.
Gerard McCarthy playing Holthouse, shows a remarkable ability to change from the boy to the man and it makes harrowing watching when, as an adult, he decides, his assailant having turned up in the town he is living in, to kill the man.
The scenes between the two boys in the cellar ring not false, but difficult to credit. They horse around sexually, as little boys do, but the older one has access to an amazing collection of weapons which he used to terrorise Holthouse and proceeds to force him to have oral sex and then to rape him. This, however, is America, the land of guns so who knows.
It makes uncomfortable viewing. In the event he decided, having confronted the bogeyman, now married with two children, not to kill him. Reduced to an equally damaged human being he has lost his power to frighten. The play comes backed by statistics about child sexual abuse and rape which state it is prevalent in every community and that it is estimated 8 million women and 5 million men in the United Kingdom have been sexually abused or raped as children.
The cast is good, the direction fluent – the play is performed with the audience on three sides of the auditorium – and there is no escaping that it highlights a social problem and the way victims keep quiet about what has been done to them. Calling attention to this is fair enough, but someone one feels it would work better as part of the more detached approach of the documentary – and reach a far wider audience. The Bogeyman, played by Mike Evans, is not demonised, but why the boy did what he did is just as worrying as what was done to Holthouse. That the two boys in the cellar indulged in horseplay is predictable –boys are sexual animals and the seven year old was infatuated with the older boy, something of a Jock – but for that to escalate to rape suggests more was wrong with that family than the play has room to examine.
But whatever one thinks, it is undeniably gripping and moving as Holthouse eventually manages to defeat his demon.
Nancy Holthouse: Glynis Barber.
Bogeyman: Mike Evans.
David Holthouse: Gerard McCarthy.
Russ/Payaso: John Moraitis.
Robert Holthouse: Geoffrey Towers.
Caro/Molly: Amy Van Nostrano.
Director: Markus Potter.
Designer: Rachel Stone.
Lighting: Rob Casey.
Original music: Eric T Lawson.
Sound: David Gregory.
Fight Coach: Dan Styles.
Voice coach: Michael Elliot.