Faultlines

James Pearson
Oblique House
Union Theatre
(2007)

James Pearson's play examines the effect of the disappearance of a 'home alone' teenager on the wider community, putting prejudiced attitudes under the spotlight.

Steph (Lisa Devlin) was left to fend for herself while her mother, Marg (Sarah Ogley), went off for a sun holiday with her new lover. Meanwhile her Dad, Si (Ben Nesham), ignored Steph's phonecalls, choosing to spend his time with his new partner, Linda (Rebecca McQuillan), and their baby daughter.

In the firing line is Steve (Shaun Stone), a neighbour, who was the last person seen with Steph and who has been marked out as a paedophile by various local thugs. Steve claims that Steph merely came round to his house because no-one else had any time for her, but things begin to look black when he admits to his brother that he once kissed her.

The various stories hint at how family dysfunction contributes to the increasing fracturing of society. Steph's parents realise too late that they have put their own desires ahead of their daughter, with far-reaching consequences. Steve fails in his duty towards his infirm mother (Suzanne Tooney) though, ironically, she doesn't blame him for this, preferring him to her more solicitous son, Andy (Benjamin Stanley), who, she claims, only looks after her to make Steve look bad.

Elgiva Field's direction handles the sometimes tricky structure of the play well, easing the transitions between the present and the flashbacks containing Steph, and using the space at the Union theatre to good effect. The violent moments when the mob trash Steve's house are realistically played out. However, the revelation of what really happened to Steph is disappointingly underpowered. At various times during the play, I felt that more interesting things were happening off-stage. For example, Steph's parents get back together and when we revisit them one year later, they have already split up.

Lisa Devlin gives a credible performance as the 14 year old Steph while Sarah Ogley as Marg manages to keep our sympathy throughout in her role as an often-demonised single mother. Pearson's dialogue is often witty, as embodied by the rough Northern mother who stands no nonsense, and shocking when necessary, as spoken by Steven Farah's Chris who is trying to persuade Steph to have an abortion.

Faultlines is a promising debut for Pearson who was the 2005 winner of the Westminster Prize for new writing and has now made the leap from writing shorts to full-length plays.

Reviewer: Bronagh Taggart