Diana Bentley and Tim Dowler-Coltman have blood on their hands in Orphans.
With the frequent and disturbing news reports about racially motivated hate crimes here and abroad, Dennis Kelly’s Orphans feels pretty timely.
It’s hard to beat the opening image of Leora Morris’s Coal Mine production for sheer punch: middle-class British couple Helen (Diana Bentley) and Danny (David Patrick Flemming) have been enjoying a nice dinner when Helen’s brother Liam (Tim Dowler-Coltman) appears, clothes torn, covered in blood.
The juxtaposition of terse domestic drama and shocking violence is intentional – think Harold Pinter meets Quentin Tarantino. As Liam’s story about what happened unspools, it becomes clear that something isn’t quite right. Holes appear in his narrative – which begins with an account of how he was helping someone who had been injured – and soon our sympathies, and the characters’, start shifting.
It’s best not to give too much away, but it’s worth noting that Helen and Liam grew up orphaned and Helen has always felt protective of her brother. It’s a shame there’s not more about Helen’s relationship with Danny, who, judging from his posh accent, hails from a different class.
But as the woman torn between one family and another, Bentley is marvellous, suggesting lots of subtext and conflict beneath her words. And Flemming’s Danny, after he’s pushed into action, is fascinating to watch.
Morris’s clean and unfussy production doesn’t provide any pat solutions - either to the characters’ dilemmas or the larger social situation. But it will make you think about the disturbing and pressing questions.