by Alan Ayckbourn.

The Print Room 34 Hereford Road W2 5AJ To 12 March 2011.

Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Captioned 1 March.
Runs: 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS 0844 477 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 26 February.

Lovely space, highly atmospheric production.
Nice when you can call on pals to launch a new enterprise. The latest addition to London’s theatre scene is this attractive 80 seater, fashioned out of an old print warehouse in Notting Hill by innovative theatre director and Gogmagogs founder, Lucy Bailey, producer designer Anda Winters and some seriously heavyweight talent helping out.

Not that this London premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s relatively unknown nine year old, all- female thriller is desperately ground breaking. But Bailey’s initiative has produced a terrific new space and therefore fresh opportunities.

Their second production, Snake in the Grass – Ayckbourn’s 61st play – shows the artistic directors following an eclectic mix with the emphasis on rediscovering lesser known works – a definite plus for whilst Britain is rich in new-writing, second productions, it seems, are harder to come by.

Set in a disused tennis court – a miracle of overgrowth and tennis netting from no less than William Dudley (fresh from his much garlanded All My Sons settings) – the play (first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough) tells a sharpish tale with economy and some humour, if a certain predictability.

Described as a `ghost story’ by its author (and a companion piece to the earlier, Haunting Julia, also, coincidentally, being revived in London later in the spring), two sisters confront each other after the death of their father. One daughter got away, the other stayed. Think Shelagh Stephenson’s Memory of Water, or for those who might have read it, Poppy Adams’ hideously discomforting novel The Behaviour of Moths.

Death always creates seismic shifts and skeleton shaking. Ayckbourn presents murder and blackmail and later adds wife-beating and sexual abuse, all done with a certain Ayckbournish lightness and within Dudley’s highly atmospheric tennis court, flickering lights and a deep well.

Apart from Dudley, Bailey has three other theatre luminaries on board – Mossie Smith, Susan Wooldridge and Sarah Woodward, who all go through their paces with typical professionalism. The star of the show however remains the space itself and a climax in which Ayckbourn reminds us that the scariest ghosts lie within us and seldom die.

Annabel: Susan Wooldridge.
Alice: Mossie Smith.
Miriam: Sarah Woodward.

Director: Lucy Bailey.
Designer: William Dudley.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Neil Alexander.
Fight director: Philip D’Orleans.
Assistant director: James Haymer.

London premiere of 9 Feb 2011; first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough in 2002.

2011-03-01 17:36:27

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