Written by real-life child psychiatrist Iain McClure, the titular ChildMinder (or at least one of them) is Joseph (Cal MacAninch), a man with a secret. Several in fact, and not the kind that live harmoniously with a successful and public career as a child psychiatrist. But buried things often rot and fester, and these secrets have a habit of suddenly robbing even the most pleasant moment of its security as the ground gives out from under him, until the question becomes one of life or death…
Or at least that’s my byline for the show. The one on the Traverse website talks about “being haunted”, “didn’t realise”, “a modern ghost story” and an “eerie psychological thriller” which, while not entirely inaccurate, really only reflects about twenty minutes in the last quarter of this 90-minute show. But I suppose marketing’s got to market and, while the mystery might have been worth playing up in what is really more a relationship and family drama with supernatural over-tones, I doubt anyone who bought a ticket due to one description of the show will leave disappointed by the product itself.
Thanks to their chemistry and committed performances from MacAninch, Mara Huf and Ben Ewing, the play is involving even when the mystery is more suggested than explored. Huf gives a lot of charm and pathos to Joseph’s partner Cindy, her chemistry with MacAninch going a long way to humanising his more reserved character, while Ben Ewing as Sam shines in two smaller but vital roles, all the trickier for one being mostly non-verbal and the other reliant on the repetition of a few choice phrases.
Director Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir, Assistant Director Cairan McLaggan and Designer Kenneth MacLeod make great use of the limited space, with the entire play happening in a boxed in area centre stage, populated only by a wall, door, table and chairs (though the unlocked door’s doorknob is a slight quibble when we are supposed to believe it doesn’t exist in certain scenes), delineated by Michaella Fee’s LED tube lights which flash and change colour more or less diegetically. At times intimate and at others claustrophobic, it never feels restraining, while Video designer Rob Willoughby’s work bridges well the often major time and spacial jumps between scenes.
At times very funny, sweet and thematically rich, Childminder is a great showcase of its team’s talents and a thrilling show.
Reviewer: Oliver Giggins
Reviewed: 9th June 2023
North West End UK Rating: