The oversized moon looming heavily over the set may give an immediate indication as to the supernatural werewolf plot of the play, but The Boy Who Cried is actually about a different kind of horror: torture, interrogation and the influential effects of grief.
This new piece, from playwright Matt Osman, is an intense thriller set solely in the home of Sylvia (Shelley Lang), a sort of crazed and wafting Morticia Addams. Her son, Sam (Jordan Mallory-Skinner) is suspected of being a werewolf and responsible for a series of recent killings. Soon, the family are visited by Protection Officer Thompson (Jake Curran), assisted by the amusing double act of Talbot (Loz Keyston) and Spencer (Hamish MacDougall). Thompson is a cruel and uncompromising character who becomes increasingly flustered and maddened, determined to place the blame, seeing only what he wants to see. Yet when we're introduced to Sam, he proves himself to be a young man of almost Shakespearean eloquence - shady but suffering from depression.
What ensues is a series of interrogations, with great chemistry between Mallory-Skinner and Curran. As with Shelley's Frankenstein, the audience must question who is the real monster: the prisoner in his own home, or the torturer? Who really holds the power? And how reliable is a confession under such circumstances?
Osman's script is incredibly wordy and intellectual, which works both in favour and against the play. Despite the dark subject matter and severe lighting, the dialogue is frequently amusing with plenty of witty wolf and dog puns and linguistic one-upmanship between the central pair in this battle of nerves. Sam, in particular, often speaks in poetry and metaphor which certainly heightens the drama, his dialogue more lyrical than the clipped and disjointed sentences of Thompson.
However, the plot frequently gets bogged down in dense wordplay and lacks some dramatic impetus in the slow first half especially. It could easily be trimmed: the frequent news reports, for example, simply interrupt rather than enhance the narrative. With greater focus on the interrogation itself this could be a tight and compact piece of theatre.
Instead Osman has delivered an overlong but cleverly layered play, ably directed by Mary Franklin. It might take a while to warm up, but the ambiguity of the plot provides plenty of food for thought.
Watch: The Boy Who Cried runs at the Hope Theatre until 29th March.