Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Nightfright The Nightmare Of Your Life Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne Review

The Nightmare Of Your Life
Devonshire Park Theatre
27 April-1 May 2010

Cast (Appearance Order)

Miss Peterson/ Jacqui Henderson -  Joanne Heywood
Jenny Gilman - Helen George
Frank Gilman - Neil Roberts
Mr Watson/Mr Harvey - David Callister 

The cast list for this horror thriller has has been subject to change at the last minute due to Paul Opacic successfully landing a new role in Hollyoaks.

Nightfright The nightmare of your life Neil Roberts, Helen George, David CallisterHowever, Neil Roberts comes to the rescue and a mighty fine job he does of it too. With only a few days notice and having seen only a couple of performances to familiarize himself with the role he steps into the lead character of Frank Gilman with apparent ease.

His new spouse, Jenny, is played by Helen George. They actually do such a good job of working alongside each other you could truly believe they are a couple of newlyweds.

This Ian Dickens production is entertaining from the very start. So many plays start off with a bit of a flat 15-20 minutes whilst you are introduced to characters and the plot etc. It's nice that there is no such flat spell in this show.

The original story was by Roger S. Moss. I have no idea if the original plot had as much comedy and sexual innuendo and references as this adaptation .... but who cares? The result is enough to keep you interested and entertained throughout and that's what matters.

Back to Neil and Jenny as the Gilmans. You can almost feel the sexual tension between them as they move into what they believe is their new dream cottage.

It is no surprise that the property is not quite as idyllic as it first seemed. There are dark secrets, shocks and surprises to be uncovered in the converted chapel and its grounds.

Joanne Heywood plays 2 very contrasting roles. That of the very odd Miss Peterson, an apparently frail, grey old lady with an incredibly big backside (and no it wasn't Joanne's real backside before anybody thinks I'm insulting the poor woman!) She also plays Jacqui Henderson - neighbour to the Gilmans' and attractive middle aged vamp who wanders round in a short leather miniskirt giving the impression she could devour men for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still go to bed hungry!

A Devonshire Park Theatre regular and favourite, David Callister, also has two roles in this production. His roles are also very different in substance. As estate agent, Mr Watson, he is smart, serious and professional. As gardener Mr Harvey, he is bumbling, slightly bonkers and amazingly funny.

I notice from the programme that the roles of Mr Harvey and Jacqui Henderson were originally cast to other actors rather than these being "second roles". Certainly from a humour point of view that change does this thriller the power of good.

However equally I have to wonder if this "Horror Thriller" was ever intended to be quite so funny?
As horror, thriller, mysteries go it is not quite up there with the best. It hasn't quite got that real sudden shock factor that makes you want to jump from your seat and it isn't so much a "whodunnit" as a "whytheydunnit".

What you have got though is consistent, fine, convincing acting from 4 wonderful performers. Relationships are convincing, the story is fascinating and believable and personally I loved the humour and even the "farcical" aspects towards the end. It also has one of the best "dead people" I have ever seen on stage. This looked very good even from close-up. The victim could not have looked more dead even if they'd actually killed him/her.

There wasn't any actor or actress that stood out tonight because each performance was equally as impressive. This is a great show and thoroughly recommended.

The only disappointing thing was, once again, the rather pathetic size of this first night audience (probably even smaller than Dad's Army Marches On) and an equally a rather poor turn out at The Friends Of The Devonshire Park Theatre meet-the-cast opportunity.

4 out of 5 for nightfright the mightmare of your life

From left - Joanne Heywood, David Callister, Neil Roberts, Helen George
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