Walking into the small Chelmer Community Centre, I remembered the last time I had been in a community hall. I had been reluctantly dragged along to watch a below par production of the musical Annie, with the cast consisting of my eight year old sister and her cronies… Twelve minutes of pure torture. So I wasn’t exactly filled with excitement as I entered the small ticket office to collect my ticket for Wait Until Dark.
The friendly atmosphere inside settled my fears and I sat down, one of the small audience seated in and around the small stage. The set was very simplistic but positioned in a way to allow the audience to be immersed in the action of the play. It worked well when in the very first scene, Mike (played by John Benetto), snoops across the stage to a bedroom placed almost behind the audience.
Sandra Harman plays the extremely difficult role of Susy Henderson, the blind wife of a photographer who unwittingly comes into the possession of a porcelain doll filled with illicit drugs. Three crooks devise a plan to trick Susy and get their way into her apartment while her husband Sam (Chris Carrol) is away.
Harman performs the Susy character adeptly. She and Paul Careless, the relatively dim villain Croker, are the standouts. They are well supported by John Benetto as the somewhat compassionate crook Mike, and Peter Moore, who plays a psychotic drug dealer as a quite disturbing character. Ashley Kelly shows real potential with her stage debut as Gloria, Susy’s young helper, who has some great one-liners.
Although a tad slow in some parts, Wait Until Dark moves along reasonably quickly and the finale is genuinely terrifying. The set, although crude, works well and the production team have excelled themselves in costuming, with the crooks rocking up in some great kit.
A Broadway hit when first performed back in 1966, Frederick Knott’s play is skillfully directed by Ron Kelly. He has managed to capture the true suspense and horror of the dark scenes, and can proudly add this to his already extensive lists of achievements which include local productions of The Elephant Man and The Woman in Black.