The truth is, I struggled to get to grips with Grip. The acting was sound and the production fast paced and interesting. Despite the difficulty in following this mutilayered story, it kept my attention. But I didn’t leave feeling I had truly understood the message of the play, or the sense I was supposed to have of its main protagonists.
Grip is the story of a young man (Trev played by Scott Howland) who has been so tragically affected by the fraility of humanity he is in danger of losing his. Or is he? As Facebook would say: it’s complicated and we only really see one side of the tragic events depicted so it is not clear if the accusations that are flying come from reality, from misunderstanding or even at points from Trev’s own psyche. How deep does it go?
Staged so even in the darkness Trev is never alone, the ‘resting’ spare actors on stage seem often to represent Trev’s inner demons as well as the friends who egg him on. Because this is Trev’s story, Louise – the purported victim of the tale – is a less well rounded character.
And I can see what they were trying to do in that at least. Much like Downstate, this is a play about understanding the tortured humanity of those who . And it is brave, but it is also slightly clunky in the same way. The focus on the humanity of the perpetrator is allowed not to compliment but to overwhelm the humanity of the victim.
Grip has potential, but it was also a bit too overwhelmingly confusing and left a few too many loose ends. Where it did succeed was in showing the terribly Kafkaesque nature of the justice system for everyone involved. This I felt could have been a more developed focus for the play as a whole, giving equal life to Trev and Louise (Emily Brown) and bringing out the frustrations of the police at the inhumanity of the system they had to adhere to.
Perhaps it is my fault that I didn’t quite get a grip. But ultimately this was an almost there, but not quite satisfying experience.