FATHER BROWN – THE CURSE OF THE INVISIBLE MAN: 3Star***, Goodrum, Theatre Royal Nottingham

3star ***

Theatre Royal to 13 August
Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 13th August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays, 5pm and 8pm Saturday (Matinee 2.00pm Weds).
Review: Alan Geary: 9th August 2016.

Over-long and wordy, but a lot of enjoyable moments.
The third of Nottingham’s Thriller Season offering stands in stark – some would say happy – contrast to last week’s Durbridge. It’s a new play, from John Goodrum, a member of the company, set in 1906 and loosely based on two of G K Chesterton’s Father Brown stories.

An attractive young artist and her aunt, an old friend of Father Brown, seek the priest’s help. The younger woman has received a highly threatening letter from an ex-fiancé who wants to get his paws on a priceless dagger acquired years before by the aunt on an archaeological dig.

Seems it was part of a set of five, some of which have already been stolen in murderous circumstances.

A striking opening scene, which provides a powerful initial statement for the whole play, is set in Father Brown’s church vestry. This and the two other locations, a country house and London studio, make effective use of the same pale and chilling, slightly stylised set-up.

It’s a wordy play, and over-long, with a lengthy but necessary exposition of the back story to start with. But there’s plenty of action later on.

The title role is well played by Thriller Season newcomer John Lyons, well-known for his many television roles. He might not be vague enough for some tastes but he successfully combines Brown’s spirituality and gentle courtesy with the necessary shrewd worldliness.

During the course of the evening all the other characters take turns to come under suspicion. The pottily enthusiastic Aunt Diana is done with her usual high confidence by Karen Henson. And Anna Mitchum delivers another polished performance as the niece Ella. John Goodrum is Welkin, Ella’s new fiancé, ex-army and dim, and very definitely the silly ass type.

Are any, or even all, of these implicated in the skulduggery? Father Brown has his suspicions almost from the start, but naturally enough he keeps most of them to himself till nearly the end.

Although the promise of the opening scene isn’t entirely realised, we do get a lot of enjoyable moments in this one.

Ella Hope: Anna Mitcham.
Father Brown: John Lyons.
Diana Hope: Karen Henson.
Angus Turnbull: John Goodrum.
James Welkin: David Gilbrook.

Directors: John Goodrum and David Gilbrook.
Setting and Lighting Design: John Goodrum and Michael O’Donoghue.
Sound Design: David Gilbrook.

2016-08-12 10:34:36

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