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Review: Hide and Seek (Park Theatre)

Updated: Mar 16

Review by Sam Waite

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

A teenage outcast hiding out from his homophobic abusers falling for a surprisingly deep member of the popular crowd, it’s all very familiar… except for the outcast being a national news story due to a supposed “disappearance”. Translated by Carlotta Brentan for an intimate production at the Park Theatre, Tobia Rossi’s Hide and Seek asks how far someone might go to not be seen, and what they might do to finally get some attention.

 

Gio has been hiding in an unseen cave, deep in the woods outside his village, for an indeterminate length of time when he is happened upon by Mirko, a popular schoolmate, and the friend of Gio’s main tormentor. Overwhelmed by the accident appearance of his longtime crush, Gio convinces him to make return visits, and to not tell anyone the truth about where he is. Eventually needing to falsify evidence both to keep the mystery alive and to throw off the search, the passion between the pair becomes stronger, and their choices more questionable.



The two boys are played very well by Loris Scarpa (Gio) and Nico Cetrulo (Mirko), both believably children believing themselves to be both more and less adult than they truly are. Scarpa leans beautifully into the “weird kid” energy of Gio, making it easy to see why someone getting to know him would be charmed, but also why people looking at him from afar would choose mockery over friendship. Cetrulo brings a good amount of boyish energy to Mirko, just one of the lads who really does just want to help out a new friend, and who wears his conflict over whether he feels more at home with his bullying cohort or his newfound lover brazenly on his sleeve.

 

Sadly, I did find the narrative increasingly difficult to suspend disbelief around. Given the intimacy of both the 90-seat space and the production itself, a certain amount of believability was lost as one question crept into my head: “Why is Mirko going along with this?” The pacing of the story is solidly handled, with revelations both new and old coming to light with just enough frequency to give this years in the making relationship some plausibility, but as those outside become more worried about Gio, and as Mirko finds the eyes on him moving from awe-struck (thanks to finding the first evidence) to suspicious, it’s hard not to wonder why he didn’t just tell someone from the get-go.



Brentan, as both translator and director, keeps things moving along and the tension building throughout. Her use of the space, having actors nearly tumbling into the front row when trying to put distance between them, helps greatly in solidifying just how cramped a home Gio has found for himself. The dialogue is mostly believably adolescent, with Gio trying to sound more grown-up than he is at times and Mirko’s naivete showing through his hopes for the future. Rossi has created two strong characters whose interactions are believable, and whose attraction feels inevitable, but their relationship is both stronger and more believable than their circumstances, which can then end up feeling like a means to an end. A beautiful end, with an appropriately thrilling and disarming conclusion, but still one the result of some confused (or just confusing) choices.

 

Lighting design from Alex Forey does well at suggesting beams of light finding their way into the cave, and of presenting a strong opening moment in which Mirko’s phone is placed down and the stage lights move to suggest it filling the space. Forey’s work is particularly helpful in providing some sense of time moving forward between scenes – Gio paces around the cave as the light constantly changes overhead, making an announcement seconds later that 12 days have gone by entirely believable. Music from Simone Manfredini also helps with these transitions landing as strong moments of theatricality, the volume and suddenness of the sound reminding us just how closed in and left with his thoughts Gio has left himself.



Constance Comparot’s set takes two disparate but complimentary approaches to creating the cave itself. At the back of the room is a literalised space, where lights are strung up and supplies and stacked against rocks, while a raised platform in the centre of the stage presents an imagined cave floor, allowing the actors to be raised and seen but still sitting visibly on the hard “ground”. This implies a degree of size that allows us to understand that this is more than a mere hole in the wall, and that there may in fact be enough space for someone to spend a great deal of time in. Combined with the strong performances, these design choices really do add a sense of reality to the proceedings.

 

Sometimes confusing but never boring, neither as thematically bold as it would like to be nor as saccharine as it could become, Hide and Seek has its flaws and does nothing to hide them, just like the young runaway at its centre. While I may have been left with questions and unease, there is a tremendous amount to like here, and I can easily understand how so many were taken with the piece’s VAULT Festival run. A success with its audience if not always with this reviewer, this is a wonderful example of just how differently art can be perceived by viewers, and that alone is worthy of celebration.

 

Hide and Seek plays at Park Theatre until March 30th

 

For tickets and information visit https://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/hide-and-seek

 

Photos by Mariano Gobbi

 

 

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