From the pen of one of the world’s greatest thriller writers, Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine), comes a tale of kidnap and murder (eventually!).
When Joe was saved from the path of a London tube, it wasn’t without consequence – his rescuer, Sandor, told him “your life belongs to me”. Taking advantage of Joe’s learning difficulties and consequential inability to stand up for himself, Joe becomes Sandor’s servant – his Gallowglass. Sandor tells Joe the ‘story’ of a once kidnapped princess in Italy – but it soon becomes clear that this is no story and history is about to repeat itself . Sandor moves to the Suffolk countryside, where scared Nina lives with her third rich husband, in preparation to kidnap her all over again.
Without knowledge of the story nor production company, I sat in anticipation as the story unfolded; unfortunately, that anticipation soon left as this production felt more like a mediocre soap episode than a kidnap thriller.
The first act felt drawn out, the second act was better in terms of content, but it remained slow-paced and lacked any suspense or anticipation. I was not on the edge of my seat nor intrigued to know what happened to each character. A casual twist or two toward the end helped, but the audience was lost by this point.
Paul Opacic (known for his roles in Emmerdale and Bad Girls) gave the strongest performance. Joe Eyre played the unstable and obsessive kidnapper Sandor Wincanton convincingly enough, while Dean Smith (playing Joe Herbert) did manage to bring out Joe’s educational struggles and need for leadership in life.
The main sets were simplistic but acceptable for classic drama. The scenes involving a simple screen drop with an image projection of stately home or train station, however, were badly executed. Alongside the lighting which wasn’t quite up to scratch, this degraded the overall production.
By not having the fundamental qualities of a thriller and with a predictable plot, it made me question what this production and its director missed if Rendell’s works are so popular?
Middle Ground Theatre Company Ltd
Artistic Director/ Producer – Michael Lunney
Theatre Royal, Norwich
Box Office – 01603 630000
Performance dates – Tuesday 20th to Saturday 24th February
UK touring dates until May 5th 2018
Reviewer – Dawn Maidstone https://theatrethoughtsbydawn.wordpress.com