From the moment the vivid red Arts Theatre curtain opens to reveal a stunning set depicting the living room of a turn-of-the-century English seaside home, one is instantly expecting a night of good theatre. And the cast and crew of this production do not disappoint. Yes, there were some small problems with occasional fluffed lines, some clumsy sound cues and a questionable hairstyle for the period, but all such minor quibbles are outshone by a cast who work their hearts out in presenting a very entertaining evening.
The play, billed as a psychological thriller and written by English writer, director and producer Brian Clemens, revolves around Max and Laura Cranwell. The couple has just been reunited with their daughter Emma, who we’re told has been missing for three years. Emma has lost all memory of her past and does not recognise her parents or their country home. It is soon revealed, however, that there is much more to the story than a happy family reunion and all is certainly not as it seems. . . Suffice to say there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience guessing until the final climactic scene.
As Max and Laura, Kurt A. Lerps and Gabrielle Traynor use their vast stage experience to present a loving couple delighted at the return of their daughter. Traynor in particular offers a captivating performance from beginning to end. She obviously has a thorough understanding of her character and moves through Laura’s emotional journey with graceful ease. As the Cranwells’ daughter, Emma, Megan Hinselwood works very hard in a most challenging role. Unfortunately I felt she was a little too mature to be playing a young lady of 24 and did not quite reach the emotional depths that the character requires. As the hired help, Karen Houghton makes a fabulous Penny, offering plenty of light relief throughout, while John C. Grey does a fine job of Hardy, performing a lovely balancing act between seemingly loyal servant and conniving snoop. Completing the cast is Wayne Lyngkuist as Ivan. While only on stage for a short stint in Act 2, Lyngkuist commands attention as soon as he enters and is extremely watchable.
There is much to like about this production and director Dale Murison should be congratulated for what she has achieved, particularly given the fact that, according to the program notes, this is only her second stint in the director’s chair. Thrillers are always hard to pull off well and period thrillers even more so. I hope to see more of Ms Murison’s directorial work in the future.