Review by Katherine Kaminsky
BASED on a Victorian mystery tale by Charles Dickens, The Black Veil, at Wimbledon Studio Theatre, has been adapted and directed by John Goodrum for his theatre company, Rumpus. The result is a good pre-Christmas thriller chiller, where nothing is as it seems.
Dr Stephen Ruggles (Nicholas Gilbrook) is visited by a mysterious veiled stranger who persuades him to help a dying man, her sick grandson, Billy.
Dr Ruggles, new to the profession and eager to take on new patients, is ready to go immediately but the old lady insists that he visits in the morning. Reluctantly, he agrees to her curious request.
During their conversation we learn much about Dr Ruggles, especially his relationship with an ex-girlfriend, Carla, whom he now detests.
The following morning, he travels to the shady area of London's Limehouse to visit Billy, where he is greeted by the stranger, still veiled, and led up to the young man's room. He soon realises all is not what it seems when he discovers Billy is already dead. In fact, he's been hanged that morning for murder.
The old woman hoped her grandson might be able to be resuscitated. She then tells Dr Ruggles about Luke Gunford, a colleague of Billy's at a building works.
Luke enticed Billy into a life of crime, eventually leaving him to take the blame for a murder and paying the ultimate price. It appears the old woman's intention, with Ruggles' unwitting help, is to clear Billy's name and have revenge on Luke - but, as I previously stated, nothing in this play is as it appears.
Luke arrives at the house with a very different version of events and, if that's not enough, ex-girlfriend, Carla, turns up, still in love with Dr Ruggles.
The first act is played with the sound of a clock ticking and whistling wind running through it, setting a foreboding atmosphere. In fact, David Gilbrooks' sound was beautifully incorporated throughout the play, highlighting the different locations of John B Scattergood's effectively bleak set.
But the evening really changes gear in the second act. Nick Wyatt's Luke is superbly convincing as a threatening murderer, who effortlessly slides into a more refined character, only making him more sinister.
Susannah Northern's Carla, the spurned, psychotic ex, keeps you transfixed while she explains her deranged logic for why Dr Ruggles is now free to love her again.
A fun evening out is supplied by Rumpus Theatre Company with this winter chiller but I must admit I was hoping to jump out of my seat a few times, but didn't.
The Black Veil adapted from Charles Dickens and directed by John Goodrum, Presented by Rumpus Theatre WITH: Nicholas Gilbrook, Annie Henson, Nick Wyatt and Susannah Northern at The Studio Theatre, Wimbledon Broadway, London SW19 from Tuesday, November 26 to Saturday, November 30 at 7.30pm (Saturday matinee at 3pm). Tickets 020 88540 0362.
RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Wimbledon Studio Theatre website...