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A CurtainUp London Review
The Secondary Victim
" Believe me there are better paying jobs with less emotional strain ." — Therapist
The Secondary Victimv
Susannah Doyle as Ali (Photo: Matthew House)
With the inevitable backlash coming to the surface in the light of the Jimmy Savile, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey allegations, here is a new play written about a complaint made by a male client about his female therapist. The playwright has worked as a therapist himself and so the territory is one which is familiar to him. We only see two clients of Ali (Susannah Doyle), the therapist in this play— both extreme, rather than largely representative of the mainstream of clients for therapy.

Teddy (Christopher Laishley), the first client. works in a gym and undergoing therapy appears to be a requirement set by his employers after an unfortunate incident with "special clients", who he finally explains were underage girls and that the incident as sexual. I was surprised not to hear the therapist say that she had reminded her client that confidentiality could be broken if something was disclosed to her that meant he or someone else was in danger.

The "Teddy" scenes establish the difficult territory that some therapists find themselves in, but the play is considerably lengthened by this side story to two and three quarter hours. A registered letter arrives for Ali summoning her to appear before an investigatory panel at her professional institute after a complaint has been made by Hugo (Michael Hanratty). She consults her professional mentor, called a supervisor, Marilyn (Natasha Bain) about her predicament and is given some advice about not volunteering too much information to the panel.

From the moment we meet Hugo with his latest therapist, Jonny (Matt Holt), it does appear that Hugo may have a serious psychiatric condition and the suspense in the play is not whether Ali did what she is accused of, but whether she will be able to prove it to the panel.

Much of the play held my interest and the performances are sound, especially that of Michael Hanratty as the deranged Hugo and Susannah Doyle's well intentioned therapist. However scenes set in a therapist's office are difficult to stage in the round because of the static, seated nature of the meetings and there were lengthy times when I could not see the face of one of the protagonists. A very slowly rotating stage would have helped this situation.

The scenes are fairly intense and there is much discussion, complicated by Ali's husband Victor's (Gary Webster)lack of sympathy for her stressful occupation. The title "secondary victim" refers to those psychologically traumatised by witnessing another act and it is Hugo whose behaviour may have been caused by earlier abuse. Notes in the theatre programme suggest that the playwright subscribes to a more interventionist and direct approach to therapy where the therapist follows the client as if to see into his world.

The Secondary Victim might have benefitted from extra workshopping to iron out some of the creases in this overly long production.

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The Secondary Victim
By Matthew Campling
Directed by Matthew Gould
Starring: Susannah Doyle, Michael Hanratty
With: Gary Webster, Natasha Bain, Matt Holt, Christopher Laishley
Floor Design: Rachel Adams
Lighting Design: Mitchell Reeve
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking to 9th December 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 15th November 2017 performance at the Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP (Tube: Finsbury Park)
Index of reviewed shows still running

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