Interview: Abigail Hood, ‘It caught the breath in my throat’

After a critically acclaimed run at Park Theatre, Abigail Hood’s play Spiral returns to the stage at Jermyn Street Theatre with a cast that comprises Rebecca Crankshaw, Jasper Jacob, Kevin Tomlinson and Hood herself.

It tells the story of a missing teenager – and parents searching for answers. Struggling to cope with the disappearance of their teenage daughter, Tom and Gill’s marriage is left in tatters. In an attempt to numb his pain, Tom makes a decision that has an irrecoverable and unexpected impact on their lives and the lives of those closest to them.

We caught up with Hood to find out more about the play and what it’s like to revisit it.

Q&A with Abigail Hood

What can you tell us about your play Spiral which is opening at the Jermyn Street Theatre?

Spiral explores the ramifications of people going missing. It centres on the relationship between Tom – a teacher whose world is falling apart following the disappearance of his teenage daughter – and Leah – a young woman in the grip of a highly abusive relationship and desperately missing her father. When they meet – in an unusual circumstance – their lives have both reached crisis point yet they find in each other a chink of light and some much needed comfort. However, this relationship – although pure and constructive – has a huge impact on those closest to them.

What was the original inspiration for the play?

‘Dear Steven, we love you, we miss you. We hope you found what you were looking for.’ Some seven years ago, I saw this printed in the bottom corner of a free London newspaper and it caught the breath in my throat. I couldn’t stop thinking about the people that had sent in that entry; how long had Steven been gone? Why had they, seemingly, given up hope of him coming home? Had they given up all hope? Why did they think he had gone? Was it a shock when he left? Did they think he would see the entry in the newspaper? What did they hope it would achieve? How had they reached a place where they had accepted what he had done? My mind was reeling. If the person I loved most in the world walked out of my life, how would I feel? How would I go on? Would I ever stop searching? Would I ever be able to move on from that? Or would that event define me for the rest of my life? It was these questions that inspired me to write Spiral and explore how people cope in the worst imaginable situation, the possible strategies they may use and how they would manage to go on living when in a state of limbo, waiting and aching for someone’s return. Well, that was where it began and is where the play begins…

Has it changed since its acclaimed run at Park Theatre?

Since the run at Park Theatre the play has been honed; with scenes re-written and new sections added. The cast of four also features two new actors who bring to the roles a very different energy and feel. We also have a new design concept specifically for the production at Jermyn Street.

Jermyn Street Theatre provides a unique space in London’s West End – how much does the play lend itself to the theatre’s space?

My intention, when writing Spiral, was to create a piece of theatre which would have a visceral effect on the audience. The intimate size and configuration of Jermyn Street Theatre is, therefore, the perfect space for this play as the audience are in such close proximity to the action that the rising tensions will be palpable. The play is highly naturalistic and unflinching in its exploration of relationships under strain so, once again, the intimate nature of the space means the audience will be close enough to see every nuance of emotion and feel every heartbeat.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Spiral?

I hope this play will prompt the conversations I believe we need to be having to address and tackle abusive relationships. I also hope audiences will leave the theatre appreciating their loved ones just that little bit more and with a renewed faith in the resilience of the human spirit and the power of human connection.

Spiral is at Jermyn Street Theatre from 2 August to 18 August