SIDMOUTH – SIDMOUTH SUMMER PLAY FESTIVAL
MANOR PAVILION THEATRE
2 hours 15 minutes – 1 interval
Manor Pavilion Theatre Box Office – 01395 514413
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 29 JULY 2019
The device of ‘twins’ in a film or play is a useful one for a writer to offer the audience an extra edge to the plot of their work. It takes something extra special to pull it off and for stage productions, some clever artistry is required to keep the patrons guessing and wondering. I will try not to broadcast any spoilers in this review.
Simon Williams, the consummate suave actor is here the writer and has conjured up a story of potential fratricide set in a run-down house in wild and wet Cornwall. Thunder, lightning and power cuts are all standard ingredients of the thriller and in ‘Double Death’ we have them all.
The plot is a tad convoluted and is set out in a rather strange solo narrative at the opening by one of the twins. Brothers who have built up a rivalry which has reached a level of danger that the police have to be involved to keep them apart – one of them is wheelchair-bound as a result of an accident potentially deliberately caused by the other. It is for the rather dotty Aunt Lalla to mediate between the two and try and keep the peace, before she becomes embroiled in their feud.
The set is suitably distressed as a neglected house which has been converted to have a lift – an unusual feature – I wish there was no gap between the doors, it just drew the eye.
The script is not great. The turgid first act is light on thrills and the clunky dialogue provides the actors with a lot of hard work to make it sound at all convincing and popping the odd coarse word or two into the speeches of Lalla just jars. The second act ramps up the twists and turns and some of these are very clever, but they cannot get the script out of the mire.
Joseph Clowser does well Ashley, the wheelchaired brother and Joss Porchweel equally good as the more psychotic twin, Max, who has a sharp line in sarcasm, charm and condescension – ok, it’s not difficult to work out it is the same actor so, not really a spoiler. So, Joseph Clowser has to be swift around the stage and backstage – often having to slightly change costume and appear unflustered when he has run off one side of the stage and appeared in the lift seconds later – a great accomplishment.
Hilary Harwood has fun as the Shakespeare -quoting, ditsy Lalla – a little ponderous on lines here and there, but a good performance nonetheless. Neil Smye is solid in the rather underwritten role as the police inspector and Sian Morgan is fine as the slightly mysterious nurse.
No one seems to be what they appear to be and even by the final curtain you are still left with questions.
The actors work hard to get the audience gasping, but the pedestrian nature of the piece never allows the tension to really escalate. The trickery is, also, too difficult to disguise to make it convincing enough and so the production suffers as a successful entry in the thriller genre.
A hardworking production where the script just fails the performers on too many levels.
ASHLEY HENNESSY – JOSEPH CLOWSER
MAX HENNESSY – JOSS PORCHWEEL
LALLA – HILARY HARWOOD
NURSE MALAHIDE – SIAN MORGAN
D.I. FERGUS – NEIL SMYE
WRITER – SIMON WILLIAMS
DIRECTOR – ROBERT MCWHIR
DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECHNICAL SERVICES LTD.
COTUME SUPERVISOR – JANET HUCKLE
SEASON PRODUCERS – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS, STUART BURROWS, JONNY CLINES