Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

A Kidnapping

William J. Holstead
Swaggering Crow
Hope Mill Theatre, and touring
06 February 2017 to 11 February 2017

The debut production from Swaggering Crow, founded by MTA fringe actor nominee William J. Holstead and Paddy Young, manifests their intention to "produce necessary, demanding theatre, with an eye for The Absurd."

Holstead and Young play a pair of ne'er-do-wells who, as the piece opens, find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere in a broken-down van. Their squabbling takes on a darker tone when it is revealed that, tied up and blindfolded in the back of the van, is a young girl, apparently their kidnap victim, played by Deevia Meir. But is she their intended victim at all, what exactly do they plan to do with her and are they getting anywhere soon anyway?

The already-combustible situation is further complicated by the sudden, and unwelcome, arrival of their nefarious and violent overseer Dean (Ethan Holmes). How exactly did he find them and what are his plans, not only for the hapless captive but also for the dubious duo? None of this is exactly clarified by the appearance, at least to the audience, of a giant black bird, played by Lucy Hilton Jones, who comments on the action in rhyme then disappears from the proceedings.

As it turns out, everyone involved, even the alleged victim, has ulterior motives for their actions, including love and money. But their half-baked plans are further doomed as the violence turns from verbal to physical.

I will resist the temptation to use the "T" word, but these days, we're fairly used to seeing low-life blokes bantering away about popular culture, or in this case sweets, as the threat of terrible violence hovers in the air. Here, as directed by Daniel Bradford, the performances are only just the right side of sweatily hysterical, which might well be appropriate for the absurd and dangerous situation but could feasibly benefit from being dialled down a bit as the production settles down.

Reviewer: Kevin Bourke


Comment by David Cunningham

While Kidnapped is a play that has yet to outgrow its influences, specifically the works of Quentin Tarantino, it is also a script that is decidedly patchy. Theatrical contrivances like the Raven creature, acting as an the articulation of Fate, usually occur at the start of the play to set the scene and the end to draw out conclusions. Popping up once in the middle is confusing. The plot developments might have greater impact if the two central characters were at least a little sympathetic so that we could be either shocked by their later actions or concerned at the outcome.

It is a handsome looking production with David Haworth’s set creating the desolate feel of a blasted heath. However, as the performances begin at full roar there is little room for dramatic development.