Hairs were standing up on the backs of necks at Nottingham Theatre Royal last night as the Colin McIntyre Classic Thrillers Season got underway with a production of Wait Until Dark.
This psychological thriller tells the tale of three cunning con men who bluff their way into a couple's apartment to recover a misplaced musical doll stuffed with heroin. But they soon face opposition from blind homeowner Susy Henderson (convincingly played by Ann Mitcham), who cottons on to their deceit and does everything in her power to thwart them.
An elaborate back story fills much of the first half of the play and it takes great attention from the audience to figure out exactly what situation is unfolding. Although it sometimes seems the characters get bogged down with long and complex speeches to explain themselves, it is all necessary build-up to the play's second half and eventual entertaining climax.
In the roles of the clever yet sometimes bumbling con men are three Classic Thriller stalwarts -- the suave Mike (Chris Sheridan), David Martin as Croker, whose Monkees-style hair cut validated the mid-1960s setting, and "the brains" of the operation, Roat, giving David Gilbrook plenty of chances to change accents and costumes as the villains try to find the doll.
Newcomer Juliette Strobel plays the fiery schoolgirl neighbour Gloria and is a joy to watch as she stomps around the stage throwing tantrums and back-chatting the adults. Her turbulent relationship with Susy provides much of the play's comic relief.
Susy's role is empowering, as the blind heroine emerges from a hellish ordeal a lot better off than the men attempting to con her. The play's climax is a showdown between Susy and the evil mastermind Roat, made all the more gripping as it takes place almost entirely in the dark. On the edge of their seats, audience members are made to sympathise with what it is like to be blind as they desperately use their ears to determine who is winning in the struggle.
A truly classic chiller that never fails to delight audiences with its 1960s charm. Wait Until Dark is being staged every night this week until Saturday, August 3.
The season continues next week with Murder With Love (Tuesday 6th to Saturday 10th) written by a master of the genre, Francis Durbridge, in a plot that combines intense theatre with a meticulously constructed plot.
Further details of showtimes and tickets, ranging from £12 to £26, can be obtained from the Theatre Royal box office on 0115-989 5555 or via the website at www.trch.co.uk