The Nightmare Room, John Goodrum
Theatre Royal Nottingham
Runs: 1h 55m: one interval: till 25 August
Nottingham’s Thriller Season back on top form.
With its fourth and final play, Nottingham’s Classic Thriller Season is back on top form. John Goodrum, who also directs and designs The Nightmare Room, has taken a short story from Conan Doyle (one of his non-Sherlock Holmes Strand Magazine tales), up-dated it from the twenties and reversed the sex of its three characters from male to female.
The result is a strange, absorbing and at times horrifying play with twists and turns aplenty.
Save for some revealing flashbacks, the action starts and mostly stays in a sparsely-furnished starkly-white room, soundproofed and with no obvious means of egress. At the outset a woman in black is seated on a white chair, tied and blindfolded, being subjected to psychological torment by another woman dressed in a mannish all-white power suit.
But over the course of a sinister and deadly game the tables turn, or appear to turn, with the initiative repeatedly passing from one to the other. We gradually gain a fuller picture of what is going on not just from their present conversation but from snatches of the past. There’s a particularly poignant scene where a child’s role-play game takes a nasty turn. It’s a disturbing moment – and utterly realistic.
Performances from Sarah Wynne Kordas (Catherine) and Angie Smith (Helen) are outstanding, that of Wynne Kordas being especially interesting. In Thriller Seasons over the years she mostly seems to have shone in straight (and therefore tricky) roles where she’s a normal person surrounded by a stage-load of eccentrics and comic stereotypes. Here she repeatedly mutates from balanced and rational to half-crazed sadistic. And she’s entirely convincing. In this play it’s Smith’s equally convincing Helen who is, on the face of it at least, relatively normal.
Strictly speaking, The Nightmare Room isn’t really a classic Classic Thriller – think Dial M for instance, or all those tried and tested Durbridges. But see it if you can, if not in Nottingham, then at one of its up-coming touring venues.
Catherine: Sarah Wynne Kordas
Helen: Anna Mitcham
Michael: John Goodrum
Director and Designer: John Goodrum
Lighting Designer: Keith Tuttle
Sound Designer: David Gilbrook
Wardrobe: Geoff Gilder