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Footballers' Wife scores highly in Knott's timeless thriller



Review by David Munro

ORIGINALLY staged in 1966 with The Avengers’ Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman, in the lead role and now played by Chardonnay of Footballers' Wives, Susie Amy, Frederick Knott’s thriller Wait Until Dark has stood the test of time well.

The plot concerns three thugs threatening a blind woman, Susy, alone in a flat in Notting Hill Gate (not so trendy in 1966) to force her to hand over a doll her husband left with her and how she tries to turn the tables on them.

A good old fashioned melodrama which doesn’t bear much scrutiny in the light of day but when well acted and presented, as this production is, one willingly suspends belief and allows oneself to be caught up in the villains’ toils and suffer with the hapless heroine.

Susie Amy is not a lady I have come across before (not being an aficionado of Footballers' Wives ) but I shall certainly look out for her in the future.

She really convinced me that she could have been blind (or perhaps it would be more PC to call it “visually impaired”).

Her movements where she felt her way around the set and the way she held herself when handling objects gave no indication that this was a sighted actress performing and as this character and her infirmity was the lynch pin of the plot, the rest of the play fell nicely into place.

One could readily accept that she was taken in by the crooks impersonations of more savoury characters and overlook the implausibility and fustian overtones of the plot. An award-winning performance which deserves to be seen in the West End.

She is well supported by as well-played a trio villains as one could hope to meet on a dark night.

Darren Nesbitt as the principal malefactor, Roat, makes the most of the highly dramatic final scene and almost convinces the audience, as well as Susy, that he is a nice bloke and on her side. A wonderful, almost moustache curling, performance beautifully executed and giving full value to the ambiguities of the part.

Not far behind is Michael Melia as a pseudo policeman, an unctuous evil ridden character whose wickedness which, while lost on Susy, was relished by the audience.

“Mr Nice Guy” was allotted to James Carlton as the crooks acted on the carrot and stick method of coercion.

He was, perhaps, a little too convincing in his part and one felt a qualm of pity for him when he gets his come-uppance at the end; another nicely judged performance though.

A minor but telling part is the little girl who actually has stolen the sought after doll before the play opens.

Minnie Crowe plays her as an enfant terrible with enough charm and intelligence to make one wonder whether or not she will save the day as she is supposed to.

Miss Crowe’s CV gives no indication of her age but if she is the age of the character, it is a very good performance for a child and, if not, it is an equally good performance as a child. Either way, Miss Crowe deserves her round of applause.

As does the director, Joe Harmston, whom, after a rather slow expository first act, whips up the pace and suspense with a master’s hand and keeps you guessing as to what he will do next.

In this, he is ably aided and abetted by Nick Richings’ lighting which, at the crucial moments of the plot, manages a suitably eerie aura to highlight, if you will excuse the pun, the evil deeds on stage.

Yes, it is all a load of nonsense but nonetheless a very enjoyable load of nonsense which achieves what it sets out to do; to give the audience a couple of hours of fun and suspense.

I hope you will not Wait Until Dark before you book your tickets for it.

Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott. Directed by Joe Harmston.
Designer – Paul Farnsworth.
Lighting – Nick Richings.
Sound – Matt McKenzie.

CAST: Susie Amy; James Carlton; Michael Melia;–Derren Nesbitt; Anthjony Edridge; Minnie Crowe; Derek Bell; Adrian Metcalfe.

Presented by Bill Kenwright

Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 IQJ
Mon 25 – Sat 30 July 2005
Evenings 7.45pm
Matinees Wed. & Sat. 2.30pm

Box Office: 0870 060 6651

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