Moving on from its first appearance at the Bread & Roses, Serafina Cusack’s Squirm has swiftly progressed. Having since been performed at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, it has now arrived at the King’s Head Theatre.
Over sixty minutes, Rory (Nick Finegan) delivers a monologue from the viewpoint of a paedophile. Without labelling him as one or justifying his actions, Rory is in turmoil and this one man show, switching between past and present, allows the audience to step into his mind. Serafina Cusack has delivered a strong piece of writing, from a perspective not easily achieved let alone tackled.
Using a stream of consciousness to reveal Rory’s grief distorts his speech, making it difficult to follow. With pace, the writing reveals a poetic side, allowing personal interpretation to judge what lays ahead.
As Rory delves further into his own sorrow it’s apparent that his last relationship, lasting many years, began whilst the other person is deemed under the age of consent. Violent descriptions of his lover’s mental outbursts lead to imagining a troubled teenager. What is it about this that Rory thinks is acceptable?
Casting is excellent, revealing that abusers come in all shapes, not the ones stereotyped – older creepy male groups. Finegan resembles an average twenty something that you imagine with plenty of friends and access to meeting women. As he attempts to validate his behaviour, it is obvious that something sinister is behind his own torture. Why is he attracted to younger girls?
As Rory encounters yet another teenager, younger than the last, will his disgust put a stop to his actions or will he put up with self-loathing to satisfy his desire? After all he is a “good person”.
Switching between timelines, Jess Bernberg’s lighting design transports between scenes; one moment, a pub’s fairy lights adds romance to a bleak meeting of two individuals, then the grey drags back the grimness of Rory’s bathroom. It encompasses the stage, and on a small budget, with discomfort, places the audience into Rory’s private and disgusting state. With bathroom products laid out in a row, and Rory switching between puking and talking, his nightgown and total state of despair achieves its purpose.
The direction allows Rory to pause and evaluate his actions, something very different to Chris Davis’ previous directorial credits. As Rory ponders his actions, his movement matches those of his state of mind. Previous work from Davis progressed swiftly through scenes and emotions, but with Squirm, he’s revealed a different aspect to his talent.
Cusack uses discomfort to give insight into male desire for young girls. It is an interesting manner to depict paedophilia. Rory’s background, what makes him the way he is and his appeal towards vulnerable women, however, is missing. Rory’s attraction to younger girls, is it an illness? Or pure perversion? And why do the bones of a younger girl turn him on?
Revealing Rory’s psychosis would elevate this script to the next stage.