Suspense to final curtain

PUBLISHED: 10:44 25 July 2008 | UPDATED: 10:53 17 June 2010

FOLLOWING the previous week's smash hit Ayckbourn comedy Relatively Speaking, for the swinging sixties, audiences at the Manor Pavilion Theatre were transported back in time to Edwardian England by an excellent Charles Vance Company cast for a spine-chilling performance of Anthony Skene's The Lodger, which made compelling entertainment.

FOLLOWING the previous week's smash hit Ayckbourn comedy Relatively Speaking, for the swinging sixties, audiences at the Manor Pavilion Theatre were transported back in time to Edwardian England by an excellent Charles Vance Company cast for a spine-chilling performance of Anthony Skene's The Lodger, which made compelling entertainment.

The action of the play takes place in the basement of a house in Marylebone, London, in 1903. Unemployed butler Alfred Bunting and his second wife, Ellen, have come perilously close to destitution and have only been saved by Ellen's hard work and determination and by a mysterious recluse, Mr Quill, a gentleman who pays well for lodging in the Buntings' spare room.

Alfred's lively and attractive daughter, Daisy, comes to live in the house and she seems to gain the approval of the enigmatic Bible quoting Mr Quill.

London is in turmoil due to a brutal murderer who often strikes at the time of full moon with women of ill repute as his victims.

As time goes by, Ellen becomes increasingly suspicious that her gentleman lodger might be the murderer until it seems everything fits. Are she and Daisy in grave danger? The tension continues to build until this absorbing and gripping play reaches its climax.

An excellent authentic set, courtesy of Robert Sherwood, a good choice of music and effective costumes helped to create the right feel for this atmospheric production and a first rate cast, under experienced director Pat Brackenbury, brought out the suspense powerfully, having first made their characters real.

A remarkable performance came from Janette Froud as Ellen, the heroine of the play. She skilfully brought out the tough, resourceful and incredibly industrious aspects of Ellen's character but also the kindness, love and compassion which had been repressed by the family's dire financial circumstances.

Despite early expectations, Ellen's 17-year-old step daughter proved a real treasure and Natalie Rowan gave a gem of a performance as the attractive Daisy, full of spirit and vitality but hard working and caring. Mutual respect developed into real friendship. The two actresses perfectly portrayed the two women's journey into danger.

John Elnaugh gave a masterful performance as the puzzling and perplexing Mr Quill, at times charming, at times chilling, smart yet secret and sinister.

Another highly competent performance came from James Pellow as Alfred Bunting who admired his wife's incredible work but sometimes resented playing second fiddle to the lodger in his own house.

David Sengupta gave a convincing portray of Daisy's work colleague whom she described as slow. He had a genuine love for Daisy and was also willing to spend the night as a volunteer to look out for the murderer.

We were kept on the edge of our seats until the final curtain, when we were able to applaud the cast for an evening of dynamic drama.

Roger Simmonds

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