Saturday, August 1, 2015


Written by Patrick Hamilton
Directed by barb barnett
Canberra Rep at Theatre 3 until 15 August 2015

Review by Len Power 30 July 2015

We don’t often get to see one of these older classic commercial plays these days, so it was interesting to see how the play stands up for a modern audience.

Patrick Hamilton’s play premiered in London in 1938 and opened on Broadway in 1941 where it remains one of the longest running non-musicals of all time.  Not a ‘whodunit’, this Victorian era thriller is more of a ‘will-he-get-away-with-it’ drama as we observe a cat and mouse game between a cruel husband and his nervous wife.  As more of the secrets of the play are revealed, the audience is drawn into a complex and devious plot that maintains interest right up until the very satisfying climax.

Director, barb barnett, has given us a straight forward production with a nice sense of period and good attention to detail in character and style.  It might be tempting for a director to make cuts or speed up the action for an older play like this, but barb barnett wisely allows it to move at a deliberate pace that suits its period setting and the characters involved.

The production has been well cast.  As the cruel husband, Peter Holland gives a strong, chilling performance.  He pulls out all the stops with his appalling behaviour towards his wife, causing audible gasps from the audience.  Kate Blackhurst plays the downtrodden wife very well.  At first pathetically teetering on the edge of a breakdown, she paces the quietly gathering strength of this woman very successfully as the play progresses.

Kate Blackhurst as the wife, Bella, and Peter Holland as the husband, Jack
 At the risk of spoiling surprises in the plot, I won’t give away any detail about the character played by Pat Gallagher except to say that he gives a finely detailed performance that is very enjoyable.

Pat Gallagher with Peter Holland
 Natalie Waldron gives a particularly good performance as Nancy, the scheming maid with a sadistic streak and Nikki-Lynnne Hunter as the housekeeper, Elizabeth, gives a confident performance of quiet assurance.  The two policemen, played by Simon Tolhurst and Rowan McMurray have a long wait before they appear in the play but certainly make their presence felt when they do.

Peter Holland and Natalie Waldron as Nancy, the maid
 The beautifully detailed Victorian drawing room set, designed by Ian Croker, is a stunner.  Lighting is especially important in this show and Chris Ellyard’s lighting has been perfectly designed.  There’s also good sound design by Jon Pearson with an excellent choice of music as well as good period costumes by Helen Drum.

Pat Gallagher with Nikki-Lynne Hunter as the housekeeper, Elizabeth

 This is an absorbing and enjoyable play directed very well by barb barnett.  If you enjoy a good, suspenseful period thriller, you’ll certainly enjoy this one.

Photos by Helen Drum.