Haunted Child (Theatre Review)
You wake up one day and your husband is gone. You called his work place, they have no idea where he is and the mystery begins. Your pain and frustration is not helped by the fact that you have a son, who sees things and you do your very best to placate him that such things do not exist. He, your son is the Haunted Child. However, no matter how tender and loving you are as a mother, your son is telling the truth when he tells you that he saw his father during one of his moments of ‘seeing things.’
Joe Penhall goes in at the deep end to explore the issues of religion/religious occultism, abandonment and its effect on the family structure in the Haunted Child. Directed by Jeremy Herring, it brings the devastating effects that can result from the pursuit of religious ideologies, which give little or no care to its followers. Douglas (Ben Daniels) is the husband who has gone AWOL on his family. During his time away, spent with a religious sect, he has been taught that sex is not good for him, neither is the desire for material things. Now imagine the task his wife Julie (Sophie Okonedo) has to take on, as she makes every effort to get the husband she used to know back.
Okonedo as the caring wife and mother shines, while Daniels shows how the dysfunction of one parent forces the stable parent to become the strength of a two-parent household for the sake of the child. The character of Douglas also serves a metaphor for absent fathers/parents and the dangers that religious fanaticism as well as the overall effect of what happens, when the things we need in life that ensure ‘normality’ are no more. In my opinion Haunted Child is contemporaneous because we hear such stories in real life situations. However, there were times when it felt tedious to sit through the play and that’s because the material was rather on the insufficient side and thinly spread in parts. Still it was a good play to learn from and that is one thing I have come to appreciate about theatre.
Haunted Child is at at Royal Court Theatre
Image: Alistair Muir