The King’s Arms, Salford; Monday 22nd July, 2019
A police officer lies dead. Detective Rose Karlan has a chief suspect on the run, the cat-and-mouse chase is intensifying and Karlan knows she’s running out of time: she needs to find him fast, before he further escalates his sociopathic vision to to cleanse the world of what he sees as corruption – no matter what the cost.
But with his whereabouts uncertain Detective Karlan suddenly finds her investigation trapped with only one, last viable avenue open to hunt down the wanted man – through his mother.
Frog – written and directed by Beth Hayward of Manchester production company Maniacal Vision – is a superb hour of nerve-wracking police detective drama, with enough twists and turns to leave any audience feeling dizzy with mind-boggling delight.
Villain of the piece is the sinister activist-turned-criminal Cameron Reus (Michael Schenk) – a viciously devious and manipulative character who generates boiling anger with every word he says; anger that then erupts into raging hot steam with every slimy, odious shred of body language that Schenk so brilliantly excretes out of him.
In contrast, his put-upon mother Mrs Reus (Maddy Myles) is the epitome of caring motherhood being taken advantage of. She hasn’t seen her son in six months yet she dotes on him and will do anything to help him – meanwhile he just sits there expressionless, arrogantly reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War to give himself a false air of credibility.
Lucy Litchfield’s portrayal of Detective Karlan is that of a textbook-following police officer, one who generates early frustration at her formulaic and ineffective methods, but she seems to redeem herself during the investigation with a brilliant set of traps designed to outwit the scheming mother-and-son pair.
Frog is a superb piece of writing, the main stage switches between police interview room scenes and mother and son phone calls where clever theatrical tricks serve to feed the audience visual clues that only make the teeth grind even more at the unbearable audacity of it all.
Where Frog really takes off is the slow and devious manner in which perception of the characters seems to change, the show is only an hour long yet the mood seems to turn towards the end – the ever increasingly desperate actions of Mrs Reus raise a very disturbing question: could she be the root cause of her son’s appalling descent into psychopathy?
Frog is a stiflingly hot hour of tension and suspense that doesn’t give anything away and thus plunges the audience deeper and deeper into a messy criminal conspiracy which both appalls and frustrates; as such it is a delightful example of successful audience manipulation.
The success of Frog lies in the remarkable manner in which a burning desire to see the right thing happen feels as if it’s been frustrated simply by the gravitational presence of appalling characters that are portrayed so brilliantly; the agonising story of a mother desperate to save her precious son at any cost – and the hopelessly deranged son who knows it.