A fine trilogy, each one a gem in its own right

Review by Paul Nelson

THE most unbelievable thing about Sleepless Nights, the trilogy of plays adapted from stories of Guy de Maupassant, is that there is only a cast of four. At the curtain call it was almost a revelation, there they all were, four of them. Leaving the theatre, I still could hardly believe it.

What that means of course, is that all the characters are so finely drawn and so neatly performed that one felt with each play there was an entirely different cast.

The three stories, all adapted for the theatre and directed by Alistair Green, provide imaginative theatre. In a simple setting, a bedroom, what else, the stories unfold, each one a gem in its own right.

The Bedroom, the title of the first playlet, is the bedroom of a well to do nobleman and his wife. He has been playing away from home and she has discovered it. A practical woman, as well as a beautiful and elegant one, she calculates her husband must be spending X number of thousands of francs on pick-ups. To come home and demand his conjugal rights for nothing seems to her to be very UN-businesslike. She claims her just payment, and rekindles the desire her husband once had for her, a desire which has never died down within her own breast.

The second play, The Conservatory, takes on the theme of a wife who has an easygoing husband, too easygoing. Whilst keeping him at a distance, for that is the proper thing to do, she has irrepressible desires for him, and with burglars possibly breaking in, she has a fair excuse to throw herself, unwillingly of course, into his arms out of fear.

Both the above plays are delightful comedies, acted with an assurance and finesse I confess I didn't expect to find, though what I did expect is anybody's guess. After all, I went in hopes of being entertained and entertained I was.

The third play, The Horla, is a different kettle of fish. It is a thriller.

Describing madness and fear in hair-raising detail, a precursor perhaps of what was going to happen to the author, a man is convinced, despite assurances to the contrary, that he is beset by a succubus which visits him at night, and ultimately the succubus succeeds in mastering his soul.

Taken out of himself by friends, themselves faintly disguised vampires on his time and privacy, made to go outside into the fresh air, nothing works, he is convinced he is doomed. With scary effects of the Horla trying to crawl through the very walls of his room, our belief in his demons takes over the evening. Its final appearance is so shocking the audience almost screams, proof if it were needed of the intense atmosphere the cast and director have created.

Sleepless Nights is a very splendid evening. It is over all too soon. I had to rub my eyes when I looked at my watch and discovered I had been in the theatre for two whole hours.

It is impossible to pick out one member of the cast, all are excellent. However, for the sheer number of different parts played, one must give a nod toward Sean Pritchett. The plays demand he runs through a series of very disparate roles, which he does with an aplomb shared by the rest of the cast.

The plays are excellently staged by the adaptor and designed with frugal artistry, making an altogether satisfactory evening.

The worries that the company will be leaving the Rose and Crown I am glad to be able to report, is not as bad as it at first seems.

The company intends to tour with some of its past successes but the director will be returning to stage plays for the management in addition to working with his own company. Thanks be.

Sleepless Nights, three plays adapted from stories by Guy de Maupassant by Alistair Green, Directed by Alistair Green, Design by Tracey Waller and Alex Agg, Lighting by Ben Pickersgill, Sound Design by Dominic Currie. WITH: The Bedroom; Nicole Tongue (Comtesse), Sean Pritchett (Sallure). The Conservatory; Sean Pritchett (The Butler), Dave Roberts (Husband), Lauren Terry (Wife). The Horla; Dave Roberts (Man), Sean Pritchett (Doctor, Monk, Dr Parent, Dr Herestauss), Nicole Tongue (Mdme Sandres, Mdme Sable, Paper), Lauren Terry (The Horla). Produced by Horla and presented at The Rose and Crown Theatre, High Street, Hampton Wick. Tickets 020 8296 9100.

GUIDE TO PICTURE: Pictured above, back row (l-r): Nicole Tongue and Sean Pritchett; front row (l-r): Dave Roberts and Lauren Terry.