Crisp’s thriller gets expert direction at Sidmouth

From normality to nightmare. Dangerous Obsession is ingenious thriller

CHARLES and Imogen Vance should be well pleased with the current season at the Manor Pavilion, and particularly so with N J Crisp’s ingenious play Dangerous Obsession, an exceedingly well directed and played production, writes Mary Hasbury.

This play is one of those thrillers that begins with what appears to be perfect normality, but then develops into an unbelievably sinister nightmare.

Set in the glamorous garden room of a luxurious house in the home counties, a successful well-to-do couple are visited by a seemingly inoffensive, albeit pedantic and tedious fellow, who claims previous acquaintance.

He is obstinately insistent they discuss the matter of business there and then, despite it being the end of a heatwave-baked day.

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They just can’t get rid of him, and when they try, discover that he has locked the doors, pocketed the keys, cut the phone lines and deactivated the burglar alarm.

He then puts them through an inquisition at gunpoint, to find out just how their actions four weeks earlier could have resulted in the death of his wife.

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At least, that is how it seems to the horrified couple as confessions are wrung from them.

Is the visitor insane? Is he out for revenge? What is he going to do? Suspense builds steadily, with moments of anguish, frustration and terror, and by the final curtain nobody is dead, although the husband has been shot three times, and the pair are left drained and broken as the visitor, having used the phone they thought useless to call the wife they thought dead, calmly unlocks the door and walks away.

Clever stuff; this three hander was expertly directed by Su Gilroy and extremely well played by Victoria Porter and Jason Marc-Williams as the couple, with a tour-de-force from Christopher Mark as the gauche, unexpected guest John Barratt, who somehow changes into a horrific psychopath whom they are powerless to placate.

This was well worth seeing.

Once again there was a magnificent set from resident designer Robert Sherwood.

On from Thursday is Alan Ayckbourn’s Taking Steps.

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