Night Must Fall At Theatre Royal, Nottingham Review


Reviewed by Alexander Wilde

Synonymous with Summer and a staple of East Midlands theatre, the acclaimed ‘Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season’ is delighting audiences at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal with three gripping plays. This week is the not-to-be-missed final chance to enjoy the riveting, closing show ‘Night Must Fall,’ brought to the stage by the talented Tabs Productions team.

Written by award-winning Emlyn Williams in 1935, and set in the same year, ‘Night Must Fall’ has a distinguished history. Broadway and West End runs, radio, film, and television adaptations as well as frequently revived on stage, this psychological thriller is one of the best.
The action takes place in the secluded, woodland bungalow – Forest Corner – of one Mrs Bramson: a bitter, wheelchair bound elderly woman who delights in self-pity and hounding her two staff and niece-come-carer, Olivia. Visitors for the Summer, Olivia’s friend Hubert is seeking her hand in marriage and Dan, a local bellhop, is intertwined with the maid Dora. The mystery begins when police officers begin searching the surrounding woods and Scotland Yard’s Inspector Belsize brings news of a missing local woman last season nearby. Sensational news in sleepy, pre-war Essex which fires the residents’ imaginations and stokes suspicion.

Without fail, my wife and I always see at least one of the Classic Thrillers each year and part of the joy is watching familiar faces tread the boards in different guises. With incredible versatility, both on and off stage, this company never fail to pull you into another mystery and deliver thoroughly convincing performances, and the cast chemistry is always superb.

Fresh from directing the last two plays, Karen Henson is delightfully cantankerous as Mrs Bramson. Her opening scenes sparring with cook/housekeeper Mrs Terence and disparaging her niece make clear her character and mindset, as well as provide just the right amount of mirth. Susan Earnshaw, as Mrs Terence, is a commanding presence, giving as good as she gets and is brilliantly brash as she manages the household and the increasing comings and goings. Whereas Sarah Wynne Kordas’ character of Olivia is trapped both financially and emotionally. Watching her obsession over the disappearance grow is captivating and how it descends into infatuation is terrific stagecraft. The unassuming Hubert’s, a wonderful Andrew Ryan, social commentary on the world and situation is fantastic. Dora and Dan (Juliette Strobel and David Osmond), star-crossed lovers they are not, nor as simple or unassuming as they appear, complete the suspects. Over a few weeks, Dan quickly ingratiates himself on Mrs Bramson and the characters transform in his presence. Certainly, no small part, Jeremy Lloyd Thomas, is the perfect investigator. Affable and intelligent he gently interrogates the psyche of the above.
Each character is longing for something, whether motivated by desire, regret, loss, or sociopathic machinations, each are multi-faceted and skilfully brought to life in just two hours.

A single, simple set is used effectively for the play which runs in two acts. Dressing and minor changes are affected behind the dropped curtain and wavering of the theatre lights, accompanied by atmospheric chords.

The resplendent, air-conditioned Theatre Royal and its welcoming ambience is the perfect escape from the balmy summer weather. Chilling in many ways, don’t let the curtain fall on this enthralling end to the Classic Thriller Season.

Rating: 5/5

On Stage until Saturday 13th August 2022.

Tickets start at £16 and are available online / or by calling the Box Office on 0115 989 5555.

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