The several moments of shock in Susan Hill's malevolent ghost story (primarily conveyed through Rod Mead's consummate sound design) provoke self-conscious laughter afterwards but, by God, does the audience jump. The two-handed adaptation on a near-bare stage allows maximum flexibility, successfully conjuring up a dog and a pony-trap, and allowing Jon Strickland both to make several bravura characterisations and to arouse humour in doing so (he's acting a non-actor acting these people).
Against that, framing the narrative as a tale being told "in this theatre" allows for twenty-odd minutes of padding as the "real" protagonist and the actor engaged to represent him are seen to rehearse up the story. But this, and the early Lovecraftian clumsiness (e.g. to evoke eeriness by saying something's eerie), subside as the terrors gather inexorable momentum. You will leave the landing light on when you get home.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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