Psychological thrillers often work well in theatrical environments – Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play currently in its 64th year. Wait Until Dark written by acclaimed thriller writer Frederick Knott (of Dial M for Murder fame) is currently being revived at Richmond Theatre. We follow the journey of Notting Hill housewife Susy Hendrix (Karina Jones) who is blind from a car accident and who has fallen victim to a con by three crooks Mike (Jack Ellis), Croker (Graeme Brookes) and Roat (Tim Treloar). Knott’s 1966 play was made famous in 1967 when it was adapted into a film which earned Audrey Hepburn her fifth Oscar nomination. While Hepburn undoubtedly was one of the greatest actresses of her time, Jones, the star of Alastair Whatley’ production has something that Hepburn didn’t; she is a blind actress. Casting an actor with a disability that matches that of the character they are playing is unfortunately rare – in fact Jones is the first blind woman to play the role of Susy in the role’s 50 year existence.
The lights go down and the audience is informed that for parts of the performance the auditorium will be completely dark. The announcement seems just a necessary health and safety requirement, but it leaves the audience with a sense of waiting, the urge to second guess when the blackout will come. Perhaps this was intentional, perhaps not but it seems apt that the audience experiences this in a play entitled Wait Until Dark. The action begins and Ellis creeps slowly down the stairs, this seems to be for the purpose of creating tension however unfortunately it just doesn’t deliver. In fact, the play’s only downfall are moments like these when the suspense of a moment just isn’t communicated – most noticeably towards the end of the second act where during one particularly heated scene (supposedly the most heated moment of the play) substantial members of the audience could be found giggling. What is surprising, however, is how well the play has stood the test of time – it feels as if it could have been written this year.
Ellis, Brookes and Treloar provide incredibly strong support to Jones and it’s obvious that they are incredibly talented actors. They kick off the play with some useful exposition – a colleague has entrusted a doll into the care of Sam Hendrix, a doll which contains £20,000 worth of heroin. When the colleague tried to retrieve the doll from Sam, who was unaware of the doll’s contents, he claimed that he’d misplaced it. So Roat, Croaker and Mike plan to con Susy (Sam’s wife) in order to retrieve the doll. To say anymore would spoil the plot. However, it is almost a shame that the audience knows the end goal of the crooks as it removes all elements of guessing.
Wait Until Dark has a lot of promise, there are some great moments including the comic interactions between Shannon Rewcroft (Gloria) and Jones. It would be interesting to see a production in a small space; a medium stage loses the intensity of an intimate production which Wait Until Dark would really benefit from.
Wait Until Dark played at Richmond Theatre and is touring the country until December 2017. For more information click here.
Photo: Manuel Harlan