"Night Must Fall" by Emlyn Williams.
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season continues this year with one of those thrillers where you know who's done the dirty deed, but the story that unfolds is as interesting as if you were waiting for the big reveal itself.
The setting is a cottage on the edge of a lonely, secluded wood where an old, ill lady in a wheelchair (Mrs Bramson) resides with a little help from her niece (Olivia) and a couple of maids (Mrs Terence and Dora) and a family friend, who seems to pop round on a regular basis, just before a meal of sorts is served (Hubert Laurie). Dora, the young maid, reveals that she is "with child" and the "gentleman" responsible is a bell boy from a local hotel, called Dan aka "Babyface". A lady from the local hotel goes missing and is discovered dead, and it's soon apparent who was responsible!
Mrs Bramson is a crotchety old, wheelchair bound, or so we think, lady of the cottage, and played with great character by Karen Henson. If you imagine Julie Walters taking her Mrs Overall character and playing this role, then you've just about got the idea of what Mrs Bramson is like. I nearly didn't recognise Karen due to the brilliant costume, wig and props.
Olivia, the "dowdy" niece who is the focus for Hubert's affections, is played by Sarah Wynne Kordas, again a brilliant character part for Sarah, but is that timidness and frightened outward appearance as genuine as it first comes across as?
Andrew Ryan plays Hubert, and Andrew, being Andrew, manages to inject a lot of comedy into the play, along with some equally wonderful lines from Karen's character.Some wonderfully tried and tested facial expressions under that false wig and moustache as well,
Mrs Terence is a wonderful comic part for Susan Earnshaw as the elder maid who takes no nonsense from Mrs Bramson. With such a wonderful script by Williams, she gets her fair share of some wonderfully comical, biting lines.
Dora, played by Anna Mitcham, is also well cast as the nervous, clumsy young maid who is responsible for introducing the murderer into the home, in a round about way. It's lovely to see the nervousness so well portrayed by Anna inn her newly pregnant character.
Robert Laughlin, who was last week's Henry Jekyll, plays Inspector Belsize of Scotland Yard in a very typical "bobby" role of the period. Unruffled but quietly aware of the responsible party's guilt and just waiting for the murderer to trip him, or herself up, before he slaps on the cuffs.
And finally Dan. He's blond, good looking and a real catch for any lady, no wonder they call him "babyface". He's a player and he knows exactly what to say to impress the impressionable ladies, including the hard faced Mrs Bramson who melts under his smarm and banter. It soon becomes apparent that Dan isn't quite the smooth operator he portrays. Dan is played often with wide eyed manicness by David Osmond, as well as a lot of charm.
A wonderful set with several off stage settings giving the impression of a much bigger cottage, and area space than first meets the eye. As usual, a clever use of lighting, which creates the feeling of suspense, matched also by the creeping soundtrack. Again the genius designs of Michael William John Donoghue for the lights and David Gilbrook with the sound.Some good props relevant to the period as well
A brilliant gothic start to the season is capitalised on by this period thriller piece which was first performed in 1935. Loved "Jekyll & Hyde" last week and love this play just as much, if not more. maybe because the play is something new to me both author wise and piece wise.
"Night Must Fall" can be seen at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, by Tabs Productions until Saturday 15 August 2015.