Writer: Frederick Knott
Director: Alastair Whatley
Reviewer: Ben Miller-Jarvest
Three men meet in a darkened flat to search for a doll stuffed with heroin that was given to the unsuspecting photographer who owns the flat with his wife. Two of these are con men, fresh out of jail. The third is a remorseless killer. Roat, the killer who dresses like a civil servant, declares that they must con the couple into giving them the doll, and after tricking the husband into going to Brighton for a shoot, they set to work ensnaring his wife, Susy, into a web of false identities and baffling stories. Susy soon begins to suspect, and, with only her temperamental twelve-year-old neighbour Gloria for help, fights back as best she can. The problem is, that Susy is blind. But then again, with the lights out, so are they…
The first image we have of The Original Theatre Company’s Wait Until Dark is David Woodhead’s superb set; the immaculately detailed flat of Susy and Sam, as well as the staircase leading down to it, and the landing it comes from. Throughout the evening this warm, homely space becomes more and more threatening as the darkness of the landing encroaches down until the stage is engulfed in shadows. Indeed, the fantastic lighting work of Chris Withers is what allows the atmosphere to build and the production to come alive. It is, therefore, a shame that these efforts are somewhat sabotaged by the use of white neon light and loud, distinctly non-period suspenseful music during the scene changes that immediately dissipates the subtle, sinister mood that had been developing. Moreover, it is difficult to see why these obvious scene change markers are needed at all, given that little is moved on stage that the actors themselves could not shift, not to mention the incomprehensible use of stagehands onstage in black during the change.
Uniquely, this production is the first time a blind performer has played the role of Susy, and Karina Jones acquits herself well in the role. She effectively traces Susy’s arc from helplessness to resourcefulness, although she could do more to signal Susy’s growing suspicion of the men about her. Elsewhere there are some good performances: Tim Treloar gives Roat the necessary mixture of mildness and sadism, while Tom McCarron, stepping into the role at late notice, brings rakish good looks and a sense of gnawing regret to the part of Mike. Shannon Rewcroft copes well with the challenge of playing a barely-pubescent girl, despite being saddled with a costume that verges on twee. It would also have been nice had the production given her space to explore some of the sadness to Gloria’s lines, as well as the obvious humour. Likewise suffering from an inappropriate costume is Oliver Mellor as Susy’s husband Sam, who seems to be dressed as an entirely 21st-century man complete with haircut. Neither does it help that Mellor is far too young to be convincing in the role; despite the 1960s setting and the fact that his character is stated to have served in World War II, he appears barely older than in his thirties.
Further hampered by a dated script and some mediocre fight choreography, The Original Theatre Company’s production of Wait Until Dark is certainly not without fault. That said, the core of the play remains both powerful and chilling, and Jones and Treloar both give the final act enough spirit that their emotional confrontation is far better than their physical one.
Runs until 7th October 2017 | Image: Contributed