Writer: Tim Norton with Jo Billington
Director: Tim Norton and Jo Billington with Ed Sayer and Kathryn Norton-Smith
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
The Curse of Cranholme Abbey is a very well-written ghost story that spans several generations and mixes youthful optimism and naivety with dark history and unending curses. It evokes period dramas and the Woman in Black, as well as elements of Scooby Doo in some of its opening moments. Assembled in only ten days the play deserves a history beyond its two-week Fringe run.
In the decaying abbey, three stories play out. In 1873, the 8th Viscount of Cranholme welcomes his second wife into their house. Her sole role is to bear him a son and heir after the death of his first child. Seventy years later, Wing Commander Charles Cranholme proposes to his girlfriend but has to leave as the party to celebrate their engagement gets underway. Another seventy years later and the 13th Viscount arrives at the house with his girlfriend and friends to look at his inheritance. Needless to say, things don’t go the way that he planned.
Central to the mystery are a white wedding dress and the alleged curse that means no future Viscount will ever be born in the house where the 8th Viscount’s son died. George Jaques, playing the dead son, gives a chilling performance that offsets the lightness that opens up each of the stories. The linking of the stories and switching between them is extremely clever, and Will Feasey’s simple but effective set design is used to great effect, with the ballroom scene in particular standing out for its imaginative transformation of the stage. It’s complemented with sound design by Oscar Maguire and lighting design by Heather Rose and Tim Norton that create an apocalyptic atmosphere to bring the play to a satisfyingly unsettling conclusion.
Produced by Young Pleasance, the talent involved should all have bright futures ahead of them.
Runs until 19 August 2017 | Image: Contributed