Tired and creaky script casts its shadow

PUBLISHED: 11:20 31 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:49 18 June 2010

House on the Cliff - Vance Company After a terrific trio of well-performed, post-war comedies, the Charles and Imogen Vance 23rd Summer Play Festival at the Manor Pavilion Theatre saw the return of George Batson s murder mystery comedy House on the Cliff

House on the Cliff - Vance Company

After a terrific trio of well-performed, post-war comedies, the Charles and Imogen Vance 23rd Summer Play Festival at the Manor Pavilion Theatre saw the return of George Batson's murder mystery comedy House on the Cliff directed by Sue Gilroy.

When her father was killed, Ellen was struck by a form of hysterical paralysis.

She and her step-mother, Karen, live in a house overhanging the cliff, which, with its old secret passages, makes an eerie setting for the mysterious events which follow.

Ellen responds to new doctor Corey Phillips with surprising speed. Newly appointed Nurse Pepper sentimentally approves of the budding romance, but housekeeper, Jenny, and Karen do not.

Then terrifying incidents occur. A body is found on the beach, then Jenny is murdered. There are surprises, twists and turns with everyone suspect. Is caring Karen really a wicked step-mother in disguise? Is Dr Lane her partner in crime and do they intend to harm Ellen? Could Ellen be faking her condition? Is she in cahoots with Dr Phillips? Nurse Pepper turns sleuth to solve the mystery.

Although this production of House on the Cliff had its moments, in my opinion, it fell short of the high standards we have come to expect of this excellent company.

At times, characters could have been much better drawn and distinct, diction could have been clearer and more energy was needed.

Perhaps the slightly tired and creaky script would have benefitted from judicious pruning.

Ami Solomons was well cast as the glamorous Karen, who put her glittering musical career on hold to look after her psychologically damaged step-daughter. Iona Thonger won our sympathy as the attractive, fragile, wheel-chair bound Ellen.

For me the highlight was an outstanding character portrayal of the severe, stern, capable and loyal housekeeper, Jenny, by Kirsty Cox - probably the best in all the times I have seen this play in the last 30 years.

Janet Farrow gave us some humorous moments as the warm-hearted Nurse pepper.

Michael Mitcham aged up well to play the forthright Dr Lane with a strong friendship with Karen. Adam Trembath needed to be much stronger as the handsome, superficially charming, but manipulative, bogus Dr Phillips.

There was another excellent, atmospheric set designed by Robert Sherwood and many of the audience seemed to enjoy the mix of mystery, suspense and comedy. Certainly the applause at the final curtain was warm and appreciative.

However, in my opinion, this friendly and talented company failed to do themselves justice on this occasion.

Roger Simmonds


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