Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

FOLLOWING their critically acclaimed UK tour and West End run of Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame, Angela Browne Ltd return to Coventry with another compulsive psychological thriller.

Angie Smith and Mark Huckett as Mark and Sally Driscoll.

Dangerous Obsession, which was adapted into a film called Darkness Falls in 1999, is widely accepted to be writer N J Crisp’s finest psycho-thriller.

It certainly is an intense journey.

The whole story is told in the conservatory of a wealthy couple’s luxurious home where Sally Driscoll receives a gentleman caller – a previous acquaintance on a drunken night out she can barely recall.

The unassuming and courteous John Barrett slowly peels away the layers of Sally and husband Mark’s apparently perfect lives, to expose some ugly secrets.

But what exactly happened in Torquay, what is in the suitcase and what is Mark’s true role in all of this?

This new staging of the play, directed by Karen Henson, consists of a cast of just three, Mark Huckett and Angie Smith as Mark and Sally Driscoll and Michael Sherwin as John Barrett. They work brilliantly to create an intimate and highly charged atmosphere in the theatre as the answers to all those questions – and more – emerge.

Dangerous Obsession, Beklgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Sherwin as John Barrett.

There is suspense by the bucketful as we are, metaphorically, drawn nearer and nearer to the edge of our seats.

The acting is strong all round but Sherwin’s portrayal of the villain of the piece (or is he?) is just the right amount of sinister – a convincing and compelling watch and one I’d definitely recommend. But you’ll have to move fast as it closes tomorrow night. (Saturday)

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book for two or more participating shows together to claim 20% off tickets.

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

THE talented team behind a bold new staging of Mary Shelley’s seminal 1818 gothic horror novel Frankenstein have definitely created a monster!

A monster hit that is.

This inventive co-production between Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Selladoor Productions and Matthew Townshend Productions has been adapted by award-winning writer Rona Munro (The James Plays, National Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland; Little Eagles, RSC), to offer a fresh take on Shelley’s groundbreaking story.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre
Eilidh Loan and Ben Castle-Gibb as Victor Frankenstein. Photo: Colin Hattersley Photography.

Monro cleverly places the writer herself amongst the action, as she wrestles with her creation and the stark realities facing revolutionary young women, both in her own time and today.

An eighteen year-old girl, Mary Shelley, dreams up a monster whose tragic story will capture the imaginations of generations to come.

A young scientist by the name of Frankenstein breathes life into a gruesome body. Banished into an indifferent world, Frankenstein’s creature desperately seeks out his true identity, but the agony of rejection and a broken promise push him into darkness. Dangerous and vengeful, the creature threatens to obliterate Frankenstein and everyone he loves, in a ferocious and bloodthirsty hunt for his maker.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Natali McCleary as-Elizabeth. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

Eilidh Loan is a powerful stage presence throughout as Shelley, the author unpacking her own horrific tale. She heads up a small, but strong ensemble including Ben Castle-Gibb as the crazed genius Victor Frankenstein, tortured by his own dark ambition for a scientific breakthrough – and at the ultimate cost of the death of everyone he loves.

Michael Moreland delivers a solid but measured performance as Frankenstein’s Monster, who is driven to murderous rage by his creator’s failure to love and accept him. It would have been all too easy to overplay this role and turn it into something that more resembled a spoof.

The sterling performances are played out around a fittingly simple but striking static stage backdrop with eerie sound and visual effects adding to the tension.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Moreland, Ben-Castle-Gibb and Eilidh Loan. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

This is a gripping and innovative retelling of the novel that is credited with launching the science fiction genre, fully grasping the enduring power of the well known story.

It’s one of the surprise theatrical highlights of my year so far – and most definitely comes highly recommended. See it if you possibly can.

Frankenstein shows at the Belgrade Theatre from 2-12 October as part of the B2 Season of Love and Belonging. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book together for two or more shows in the season to claim 20% off your tickets.

Hitchcock train thriller gathers steam

Hitchcock train thriller gathers steam

ANY body of work that has iconic director Alfred Hitchcock’s name attached to it, is a must for mystery lovers.

The Lady Vanishes

The arrival of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes at The Belgrade Theatre this week therefore, had been much anticipated.

Based on the 1938 Hitchcock classic – ranked one of the Best British films of all time -the play takes place on a train travelling from Vienna to Zurich, where an English Socialite Iris Henderson discovers that an elderly travelling companion who befriended her at the station, has disappeared while she was sleeping.

Asking around about the missing lady, Iris is bewildered to find that all of her fellow passengers deny ever having seen her. The only person she can persuade to help her is a young musician named Max.

Iris is left to get to the bottom of what nefarious acts have been going on, with the help of Max (Matt Barber), a young man whom she outwardly detests.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre

Thrilling it is, Hitchcockian it is – but there are also lighter moments that relieve the tension – with a cast chock full of European caricatures, from the elderly British governess Miss Froy (Gwen Taylor), carefree young socialite (Scarlett Archer) and English cricket-obsessed toffs (Denis Lill and Bean Nealon) through to the humourless German soldier (Joe Reisig) and demonstrative Italian magician (Martin Carroll).

I can’t help but wonder if, with the passage of time, the humour plays a bigger role in the 21st century reincarnation of this story. And Lill and Nealon were central to that.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre

The show’s narrative can feel like its plodding a bit at times, and you sense it takes a while to really get going. But I’m undecided as to whether this is simply more to do with the Hitchcock style. Its transition to stage works well on the whole, but I do admit to leaving the theatre at the end of the night feeling a tad confused about the plot, not helped by the many scenes that take place off the train which are merely described to us. (Of course this could be just me. I am, after all, one of those annoying people who is constantly asking questions to keep up with TV plot twists!)

But the play is elevated by a capable cast – and a livelier second act.

There’s intrigue by the bucket load and you won’t go home disappointed with producer Bill Kenwright’s latest offering.

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Despite being a Hitchcock fan, somehow this film had passed me by so I wasn’t able to draw comparisons (and maybe it’s not fair to do so.). But if, unlike me, you are familiar with story, I advise you book your ticket with an open mind. Recreating Hitchcock on stage presents its own challenges but, in the main part, I would say it succeeds. It was certainly well enough received by last night’s Belgrade audience.

Personally, I’d sum up the experience as one I enjoyed, but not one I’d necessarily rush to repeat.

The Lady Vanishes plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday, 28th September. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 02476 553055 or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk

You Should Be Dancing. . .

You Should Be Dancing. . .

THERE’S a highly infectious fever sweeping Coventry this week – and it’s leaving us all somewhat hot under the collar, to say the least.

One of the most iconic movie soundtracks of all time, Saturday Night Fever helped to popularise disco music around the globe. And, whatever your generation, it’s accepted that The Bee Gees defined that beat.

Saturday Night Fever, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Pamela Raith Photography.

It is packed with their greatest hits, including Stayin’ Alive, How Deep is Your Love?, Night Fever, Tragedy, More than a Woman, Boogie Shoes, If I Can’t Have You and You Should Be Dancing. – And you will be!

I defy anyone to stay seated during the rousing closing numbers. Indeed, it was a case of Tuesday Night Fever at the Belgrade’s opening show when the disco vibe left us dancing in the aisles – and then all the way home.

It truly is an unforgettable soundtrack which has lost nothing in its reimagining for the stage, combined with even more music (17 tracks in total), more drama and ‘hot’ new choreography.

Leading man Richard Winsor always had big dance shoes to fill as Tony Manero, a role that, of course, catapulted John Travolta to international stardom. But fill them he does and, akin to witnessing any master of his craft, you’ll be simply mesmerized watching him strut his stuff throughout.

Saturday Night Fever, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Saturday Night Fever conjures high expectations and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Bill Deamer delivers on all levels.

For those less familiar with the storyline (where have you been?), it follows the journey of Tony Manero as he escapes the harsh realities of working class life in Brooklyn and embarks on a reckless, yet thrilling, road to dance success. This is no flouncy musical as the show explores what it is like to be young broke and trapped in 1970s Brooklyn. And it isn’t always pretty – with misogyny, gang violence, abortion, depression, racism and hints of domestic abuse.

The themes of love, friendship and family are explored with sometimes tragic consequences.

Yet, understandably, it’s still the dancing that most of us remember the movie for. And the same might be said of this stage adaptation, produced by Bill Kenwright.

Saturday Night Fever, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Early signs seem to suggest that Saturday Night Fever is set to become a hot favourite in Coventry and Warwickshire so grab your glitter ball and make a date. But you need to act fast if you want to strut your stuff on one of the most famous dance floors in the world before it continues on its tour of the country. It plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday and tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 02476 553055, or by visiting: www.belgrade.co.uk