“Night Must Fall” by Emlyn Williams
at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
28/11/16 - 3/12/16
This psychological thriller will keep you guessing, even though you’re fairly sure from the start who the murderer is: it’s a familiar genre today. Emlyn Williams’ “Night Must Fall” was written in 1937, when psychological profiling of criminals was relatively new and its protagonist’s lust for power and lack of empathy for others echoes modern forensic analyses of serial killers. This production succeeds in retaining the suspense of the original play, with an excellent cast, a wonderful set and superb character acting.
The story literally starts with a bang, to set the scene for unexpected happenings, and rises in the second act to a threatening climax and an unexpected outcome. In between, there’s a great deal of humour. Hubert, who is courting Olivia with little success, is played by Alasdair Buchan with a nod to the young men in P.G.Wodehouse’s books of the 1930’s, and Mrs Terence, the redoubtable cook, is played with great gusto by Mandi Symonds: she is not to be bullied and tells her unlovable employer so in no uncertain terms, in every word and gesture, to great comic effect at times.
Gwen Taylor’s Mrs Bramson is self-absorbed and domineering, but vulnerable to flattery. Will Featherstone as Dan manipulates the women with volatile moods; veering from reassuringly (or at times frighteningly) assertive, to charming and entertaining, to scared and infantile, his portrayal of Dan is fluid and charismatic.
All the performances are excellent, individually and ensemble: Melissa Vaughan as the timid maid servant, the victim of Dan’s amoral lust; Darah O’Malley, who as Inspector Belsize strikes a note from “An Inspector Calls”; Nurse Libby, tactful district nurse, and Niamh McGrady, who as Olivia (in reality anything but “plain”) manages to make an unexpected change of heart convincing – but I’ll say no more.
This is a well-crafted, vivid production that transcends its period setting, with blood-curdling surprises – but no blood. Go and catch this classic psychological thriller at the Yvonne Arnaud this week if you enjoy suspense, humour and the ever-present possibility of “things that go bump in the night”.
This review will be published on the Essential Surrey website today, with photos and details of how to buy tickets.