DATING scams are now two a penny. But as Darling, a play written by Kathy Rucker, reminds us, love has long been used to scam lonely people out of their hard earned savings.
Inspired by a true story that took place in the 1980s in America’s Midwest, Darling tracks Peter’s quest to find love. A fraught journey that will at times make you wince.
Peter, magnificently played by Tom Edward-Kane, carries a ton of baggage around with him. All sagging shoulders and not a smile in sight.
He’s never forgiven himself for not being there when his mother died from a heart attack. Meanwhile, he spends his days and nights looking after his terminally ill – and rather demanding – father Roy (Colin Bruce) while doing a menial job sweeping floors to make ends meet. All rather grim. A cello that Peter occasionally plays shines a light on a brighter past – and maybe an opportunity lost.
Yet Peter’s life is then enlivened by correspondence he starts having with a woman called Angie (Lucia Young) on the back of a flyer he received in the post. Although she exists, Angie is sadly not quite the real thing. She’s a front for the scheming Dave (Heider Ali) who makes money from encouraging men to strike up a written relationship with women who don’t exist – in the hope of the victims sending in dollar bills as their heart-strings are pulled from pillar to post. Little do these men know whose pen is behind the letters they receive.
The relationship between Dave and Angie – loose business partners – is at best tempestuous. Dave is manipulative and unsympathetic to the hurt he is causing. Angie has a heart and like Peter has baggage of her own following a car accident she caused. She’s also gullible – like Peter.
The story is slow to unfold, painfully so in places, and for a while it’s difficult to decipher what is actually taking place on stage. Is it what is going on in Peter’s mind or is it reality?
But the second act draws all the loose ends together in powerful style. Peter decides to go and meet Angie in the flesh – primarily to retrieve some of his dead mother’s clothes that he had sent to Angie, but that Roy now wants back. It’s only then that the deceit unfolds.
There’s another twist or two at the bitter end. One that will make you wonder what crime Peter may have committed in a previous life to deserve the current one he is enduring. Another that will plant a seed in your mind as to whether Dave’s deceit was as evil as it appears.
Directed by Scott Le Crass, Darling benefits from great acting – even Bruce’s cameo as Roy is quite marvellous. A play that will make you think twice about going anywhere near a dating website again for fear of being scammed by a clone of Dave.
Darling runs until November 27 – for more info
Photos by Steve Gregson