27 October to 1 November 2014
Reviewed by Gemma Ingham
The Small Hand is the new chilling tale adapted for stage from the author of the Woman in Black, Susan Hill. I went to view the play at the Grand Opera House in York, which is conveniently located close to public transport and car parking. The staff are warm, friendly and approachable and gave us clear directions to our seats. Unlike a previous visit we seemed to have more than enough legroom in our seats which made it a much more enjoyable visit.
What I didn’t realize before watching the play is that there are only 3 actors to play the characters. Andrew Lancel only plays the main character, Adam Snow, while Diane Keen and Robert Duncan play a multitude of extremely different characters. At some points it was hard to believe it was the same actor portraying such a wide range of people and accents with only a subtle change to their clothing such as an extra scarf or a different jacket.
The play starts with the main character Adam Snow, an art dealer, who comes across an abandoned house and is compelled to investigate. As he approaches the house he feels the sensation of a small cold hand reaching for his own, but there is no one there.
He leaves, but finds himself plagued with nightmares revolving around water, suffers panic attacks, and continues to feel the small hand in his own. He takes it upon himself to find out exactly what it is about the house that has affected him so much.
I did find the play enjoyable, although it did take me a while to get into it. It was definitely a slow burner.
The set was pretty simple with the main backdrop changing depending on whether the characters were at the house, in a garden etc… I wouldn’t say it was scary at any point. It did do a good job of creating an atmosphere and building tension with a mixture of lighting and sound, although Lancel was the key to this as his acting was fantastic in these moments. I did feel that sometimes the loud sounds were just used for the sake of it to try and make the audience jump and didn’t really add anything to the story itself. It was also irritating that there was a constant low buzzing from a speaker somewhere in the auditorium and I did hear a few other audience members’ comment on it. It didn’t take away from the play too much but was very noticeable in quiet parts.
As for the characters, it took me a while to warm up to Snow’s character. I didn’t like the way Lancel played him at first and found him obnoxious and loud with his typical brusque British accent, but I suspect that is the way this character is supposed to be played. Keen played a number of characters from an American old friend, an Irish therapist and a Scottish house keeper to name a few. She was believable in every single one of the roles and I enjoyed watching her. Duncan also played all of his characters well, from an over worked Detective, an eccentric old man, and a restaurant owner who tells bad jokes! Duncan added a much needed comedic slant to the play.
I did enjoy the play. I can’t say I would want to watch it again, but it was an interesting story played by brilliant actors. My husband said he guessed the plot ending early on in the play, but I tried not to guess it and was slightly surprised at the end.
Tickets cost from £19.90 to £35.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
The Small Hand is at the Grand Opera House in York until 1 November 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8713024.
Grand Opera House York, Clifford and Cumberland Street, York, YO1 9SW | 0844 8713024