Nottingham’s annual Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season has kicked off this week, bringing a skulduggerous serving of four thriller faves in the rep style.
It’s a great bit of inexpensive fun over the summer, especially if you get tickets for all four shows, and in a slight change to all things ‘whodunit’ starts with Fredrick Knott’s murderous home alone style thriller Wait Until Dark another classic from the man who wrote Dial M For Murder.
The psychological drama unfolds in a lovingly furnished 60s basement flat, home to London photographer Sam Hendrix (John Goodrum) and his beautiful young wife Susy (Anna Mitcham), who lost her sight following a car crash.
When Sam gets played by a con lady to bring back a doll full of Heroin from Amsterdam, he unwittingly puts Susy in grave danger as some shady conmen target their home to recover the drugs.
There’s lots going on, at one level there is the hustle of the pro conmen trying to trick Susy, luring away Sam in order to play mind games on his seemingly vulnerable wife to get the gear.
Then there are the conmen trying to hustle each other. No honour amongst thieves here, as mastermind Roat (played with sociopathic coolness by David Gilbrook) trys to manipulate the wing men he’s recruited. Smooth sports jacketed ladies man Mike (Chris Sheriden) is Susy's sympathetic primary contact and the less refined Monkees mopped foil Croker (David Martin) both reluctantly running the con for the lure of cash.
The star of the show is of course Susy, who despite the daily struggle of her disability demonstrates a inner bravery and sharpness of wits that draws much admiration from the already sympathetic audience. The period gender role of her character is a little grating, she’d be a stronger more formidable character these days but her inner strength and resolve does shine through the 60s sensibilities as she puts all the frightening pieces together and starts making her own preparations.
Some of the Classic Thriller shows can be lovingly hammy, this isn’t one of them. With the exception of the sulky 12 year old from next door Gloria who lends some welcome mirth, and the occasional titter from Radio 4 going audience members at some of Roat’s con characters (who have a touch of Count Arthur Strong about them) it’s deadly serious tense drama.
Watching a blind woman be terrorized and taken advantage is on one hand cringe making and on the other riveting, as you quietly root for her survival from the edge of your seat.
Wait Until Dark plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 August 2019 as part of the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season and will be followed by Murder with Love from Tuesday 6 August.