How do you translate a complex crime thriller TV mini-series to a two and a half hour stage play? Judging by “Gallowglass” at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week, the short answer seems to seems to be “with difficulty”. This tale of a psychologically challenged kidnapper carries us along with it very credibly until its dènouement, when the plot, until then thickening nicely, is suddenly telescoped into a perfunctory resumé of “What happened next”. Those of us who hadn’t read or seen the original work by Ruth Rendell (as Barbara Vine) left the theatre puzzling among ourselves, nonplussed as to what actually had been the upshot of the exciting events we’d been following.
It’s after the interval that inconsistencies of characterisation and plot arise to erode our credibility in the story and the characters. Suspended belief is challenged when the would-be kidnappers are allowed to escape, for example. These are the script’s faults rather than the director’s or the actors’, of course.
I enjoyed the evening despite these reservations about the play’s plot and construction. It’s full of suspense and I found myself intensely curious as to what the outcome would be. Dean Smith brought Joe to life as Sandor’s psychological captive; Rachel Hart was sluttish and funny in the role of Tilley; Paul Opacic as Paul was a decent man trapped in the dilemma of choosing between his daughter and a lover. Perhaps Eva Sayer as his daughter was a little shrill but Florence Cady was beautiful and aristocratic and Karen Drury’s portrayal of Sandor’s neurotically possessive mother was faultless.
This is a good night out at the theatre. Be ready to be mystified!
This review also appears on the Theatre and Arts page of Essential Surrey Magazine today. /www.essentialsurrey.co.uk/theatre-arts/review-gallowglass-yvonne-arnaud/