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Stage Review: Wait Until Dark – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Karina Jones as Susy Jack Ellis as Mike

By Ferenc Hepp

Three recently released cons believe a doll containing heroin is in a flat occupied by a blind woman, Susy, whose husband is away. This is the start of a rather complicated plot of Wait Until Dark at the Yvonne Arnaud this week.

The Original Theatre Company in association with Eastbourne Theatres present the Frederick Knott play which was first performed on Broadway in 1966, a film version being released a year later.

David Woodhead’s set design is impressive and there is a lot of attention to detail, including some old photographic equipment, a number of levels to indicate the apartment and the entrance porch, a bit of the outside scenery looking up from the basement and a very bright fridge, which plays a vital part towards the end of the play.

Alastair Whatley directs and according to the programme notes he “wanted something to give audience a real theatrical experience, something you can’t get from staying home with a box set…. and to return it to its original medium [the stage] with as much love, care and craft as possible.”

As far as stage craft and care, he has achieved this, however, a real theatrical experience it is not. It is not easy to create a thriller in a live setting without the trickery of the small or large screen, although I have seen plenty of examples where this had been successful. But, this adaptation caused no emotion or excitement.

It is great that Karina Jones, a successful registered blind actress, takes on the leading role of Susy and she does do well with the script she has to work with; some of the more dramatic moments of the play come from her.

The three conmen are played by Graeme Brookes, Jack Ellis and Tim Treloar. Ellis as Mike, is the most believable of the three, especially as he gains the trust of Susy by pretending that he is an old friend of her husband’s, and when three of them are on stage together, an interesting dynamic does emerge.

However, the action does not pick up pace until the very end and some of the dialogue is rather monotonous and boring. Instead of being gripped and wanting to go back after the interval to find out ‘whodunnit’, I found myself, sipping my wine, just trying to understand the plot and the different guises that the three men took on.

We are warned at the beginning that there will be times of total darkness, but when this happens instead of fear and nervous anticipation, all I heard from the other side of the stalls was a gentle yawn from someone, which unfortunately summed up the evening for me.

The cast do a reasonable job this is not one of the more memorable productions I have seen on the Arnaud stage and despite the director’s notes, a box set may be a better option.

Wait Until Dark runs until Saturday December 2 and tickets are available via the website: www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk or by calling the box office on: 01483 440000.

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