When the biggest name in the cast (Jon Finch) only appears visibly for a few seconds at the end as a corpse, it's safe to say that production values are, erhm, playful. Former Stratford supremo Ken Hill's adaptation sets the performance in a 1904 music hall, in which the recent mysterious occurrences in nearby Iping are re-enacted with deliberately bad jokes, straight-to-audience narration (courtesy of Brian Murphy's endearing hobo), gratuitous James Mason impersonations and – this is Stratford – a liberal sprinkling of politically-correct sentiments (the disembodied voice of the nefarious Griffin threatens anachronistically to assassinate the Countess of Finchley).
It's an unashamed frolic, bolstered by Paul Kieve's extraordinary illusions: not just vanishing stunts (Griffin unwinds the bandages from his head to reveal no head at all) but cigarettes smoking themselves, and a landlady's breasts being vigorously (and disturbingly) fondled without corporeal agency. Go elsewhere for profundity, this is a marvellous pre-Yuletide frolic.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
Return to index of reviews for the year 1991
Return to master reviews index
Return to main theatre page
Return to Shutters homepage