Two women. One locked room. One bottle of poison. The components are simple, but the story is far from it, lulling the audience into feeling that they’ve got it all worked out – until they realise again that they haven’t.
Rounding off Colin McIntyre’s Classic Thrillers Season for 2018, contemporary thriller The Nightmare Room is based on the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by John Goodrum. It stars Angie Smith and Sarah Wynne Kordas as Helen and Katherine, lifelong best friends locked together in a sordid love triangle… and a soundproofed, featureless room.
The intensity of the stark white set stuns you as the harsh lights go up on The Nightmare Room, and continues to disarm the audience every time we are brought back to this particular scene. Though the set remains the same, the clever lighting distinguishes the starkness of the titular room with the contrasting, soft dappled light of the living room of Kathrine’s luxury home, or the ambient atmosphere of a favoured lunch spot. With each drop of the lights the audience is transported to various points in time that led to these two women being locked in the Nightmare Room, and the story slowly unravels with every flashback and aside.
With mere seconds of darkness separating each scene, the actors switch seamlessly from fighting and sneering, to embracing warmly and giggling over drinks. Light chatter is interspersed with anguish and scorn, and the tension brought on by the bottle of poison that remains centre stage is felt through every scene. As the story unfolds, you begin to see the cracks in the relationship long before the events in the locked room, and the twist at the climax of the first half is not the last by far.
The audience can never be completely sure who is truly in control – the scorned wife, the jealous mistress, or the man who drove them both to madness.
The Nightmare Room runs at The Theatre Royal Nottingham until Saturday 25 August 2018.