THE MIST IN THE MIRROR: adapted Ian Kershaw.
Nottingham Playhouse (touring).
Details: Oldham Coliseum Theatre, www.coliseum.org.uk
Runs: 1h 55m: one interval: till Saturday, 4th April.
Review: Alan Geary: 1st April 2015.
Not up there with The Woman in Black. Too ghostly.
Restless world traveller James Monmouth, has had a life-long obsession with the late Conrad Vane and is researching for a book he’s planning to write about him. Turns out that Vane (suggested by the real-life Aleister Crowley?) was a thorough-going rotter.
Ian Kershaw’s adaptation of the Susan Hill novel isn’t up there with The Woman in Black but it’s a serviceable ghost story all the same. A pity therefore that from the outset it’s all too relentlessly ghostly: there’s nothing normal against which to gauge the abnormal. Like most tales involving the supernatural, the play needed to start in a healthily run of the mill, natural setting before getting down to business. Here it called for a London club that wasn’t haunted.
Thereafter, Monmouth stays at a haunted inn, visits a haunted school, goes for a tramp on a haunted stretch of the Yorkshire Moors; and so it goes on. Consequently almost the whole play is done in intolerable gloom.
Monmouth invites trouble. He tries exploring a musty library at dead of night instead of waiting till morn; he leaves a roaring fire in a cosy station waiting room for a five-mile tramp across unknown moors in complete winter darkness.
He does, however take up a Christmas invitation to stay with the promising Lady Quincebridge – the play’s full of Dickensian names. Any normal man would. Trouble is, instead of mince pies and yuletide cheer, the Quincebridge pile turns out to be just as dark, gloomy, and, yep, haunted as everywhere else.
It’s deliberately stuffed with gothic cliché: the unwelcoming inn-keeper; the fog – smoke effects are worked overtime; the bloke woken from his sleep, clad in nightshirt and nightcap and carrying a candle; the embarrassed silences whenever Vane’s name is brought up. There’s even the symbolic burning down of a ghastly old stately home at the end.
This is pared down in terms of actors and set, but not in technology. Back projection is brilliantly used to create dingy streets, murky interiors, open country, even a moving train. And anyone who rejoices in sound effects will love it.
Why the title? A large mirror occasionally dominates the set but isn’t that significant plot-wise. Perhaps it’s the box office pulling power of alliteration.
Esther: Sarah Eve.
Lady Viola Quincebridge: Caroline Harding.
Reader: Jack Lord.
Dr Valentine Dancer/Sir Lionel Quincebridge/Mr Beamish: Martin Reeve.
Mr James Monmouth: Paul Warriner.
Director: Kevin Shaw.
Designer: Barney George.
Lighting Designer: Andrew Crofts.
Sound Designer: Lorna Munden.