ISSUES relating to dementia, sexual abuse, #MeToo and sibling rivalry are all thrown into the melting pot by talented writer Freya Alderson. The resulting ‘meal’ she has served up is Thread, a powerful and quite devastating play that at times takes your breath away. Poignant, brutal, pacey and very much of the moment.
Directed sharply by Veronica Quilligan, the play begins with a dishevelled Peter Gibson (a quite magnificent Eric Carte) stumbling around on stage clutching the Oscar he won a distant past ago (best director). It is obvious the 82-year-old is suffering from dementia – ‘I’m confused right now’.
He is joined by feisty daughter Margo (Maya-Nika Bewley) who has attitude excreting from every pore. ‘Do you know who I am?’ she asks Dad disparagingly. ‘No one’s at home,’ she adds.
Margo is a flirty horror of an individual with vanity issues, only interested in herself and her social media presence. Drink and drugs are part of her staple diet.
Into the fray marches Vivian (Christina Balmer), Margo’s older half-sister who has followed in her father’s footsteps and taken to stage like duck to water (‘the second most famous Gibson’). She’s been nominated for an award. Unlike Margo, she’s devoted to Dad despite the fact he was somewhat harsh about her when she was trying her hardest to make a career breakthrough many years ago (‘plain little girl’).
Vivian is accompanied by talent scout Ian Semenya (Christopher Jenner-Cole) whom she seems to have a thing or two about. It’s not reciprocated although he has more important issues on his mind. He has got wind of the fact that a woman has gone to the press claiming Peter had been ‘inappropriate’ to her in the past – non-consensual sexual behaviour. Ian is concerned that if the story breaks, it could jeopardise Vivian’s chances of winning her award.
Yet when the woman breaks cover on social media, the dynamic between Ian, Margo and Vivian suddenly changes (Peter remains in a world of his own, looking forlornly for a first wife that died a long time ago and cigarettes he no longer smokes). Family threads start to fray.
While Vivian, much to Ian’s frustration, stands four square behind Dad – ‘I’m backing my own’ – Margo is content to confirm his guilt on social media. The tension between the two sisters is palpable as their respective stars ascend and descend. It all culminates in a dramatic and shocking climax when the truth about Peter’s past sexual behaviour is confirmed.
Thread, presented by The XV Theatre Company, is a compelling play. The acting is near flawless with Carte, all bushy eyebrows and slippers, the star (a mini Brian Blessed). Bewley and Balmer are super as the warring sisters while Jenner-Cole ensures Semenya (who has a questionable sexual past himself) comes across as the self-centred businessman that he truly is. He goes where the money is.
Thread is a triumph and received a rapturous response from the audience on December 5. Catch it if you can.