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Review of Don’t Look Now at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Tom Cornish, Tina Gray, Gilian Cally (Don't Look Now 2015, Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch) by Mark Sepple
Tom Cornish, Tina Gray, Gilian Cally (Don’t Look Now 2015, Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch) by Mark Sepple

The trouble with taking an iconic motion picture, itself an adaptation of a ‘short story’, and making a theatrical adaptation of it, is that there’s just no pleasing some people. To have been as faithful as possible to the film opens the show up to criticism that it lacks imagination, and to have worked with it and given some thought to how it would best work on stage, as this production of Don’t Look Now has done, leaves some theatregoers either bemused or disappointed that a key moment in the film wasn’t replicated exactly as they would have wanted it.

Setting aside the narrow-mindedness of those who have yet to fully grasp the concept of suspending disbelief at the theatre, this play works well. The film was released 42 years ago, and the original short story is even older; there is no way of getting around the issue that while the story was of its time, it is not as terrifying as a brand new ‘horror’ story would be. This, of course, has its advantages – there are people who would rather come to something not so petrifying, and I am always sympathetic to those who do not want to spend a portion of their disposable income on tickets to something unpleasant.

Don’t Look Now still has resonance, however, though this is more in the exploration of cognitive psychology than in making people jump out of their seats. The set is by far the most impressive I have seen to date at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, with objects flying in and out (or otherwise across) seamlessly, allowing for very quick and clear scene changes, and without the distraction of several stagehands frantically darting about. This community theatre’s budget may be limited (as is everyone’s, to some extent), but the staging here felt very lavish with no expense spared.

Gillian Cally and Tina Gray as Sister and Blind Sister put in stellar and fully compelling performances, and Sam Pay’s Restaurant Proprietor (I do wish these characters had proper names – there’s only eight of them!) succeeds in being amusing yet irritating yet charming, providing some comic relief in an otherwise dark and fraught play. Tom Cornish’s John and Charlotte Powell’s Laura never quite seemed to have very much palpable chemistry between them, though to be fair this must be read in the context of their bereavement. I think, though, it’s Karen Anderson as Red-Cloaked Figure who has the most fun. I can’t figure out a way of explaining why without giving away too much narrative, though I trust you can infer from the character’s name that, although a minor role, it’s a great part.

The play is a slow-burner, only going into overdrive during an argument between John and Laura (and even that scene, I felt, could have been cut out without consequence to the rest of the storyline). The gory end, when it comes, does not bother using fake blood. Usually this isn’t a problem for me, though in this instance I think it could have make the scene even more harrowing than it was.

Even those of us familiar with the original short story and the movie that followed were kept interested to the end with this impressive production. In this day and age, it may not have evoked loud screams from clued-up audiences, but in the twists and turns of the plot, there’s more than enough to maintain intrigue and curiosity. And yes, they’ve kept in a certain scene that proved controversial in the film because it was so graphic. A thoughtful play looking at the impact the loss of a child can have on its surviving parents, this production of Don’t Look Now is a worthy adaptation of a modern classic film.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

John and Laura Baxter travel to Venice, hoping to save their troubled marriage after the loss of their young daughter, Christine. Amidst the romance of the city, they start to come to terms with their tragedy and it seems a new chapter is beginning.
But then, strange things start to happen…
The couple meet a pair of elderly ‘psychic’ sisters who claim to be able to see Christine and urgently warn them to leave the city. And just who is the figure in red who mysteriously keeps appearing? Don’t miss this tragic, haunting drama – full of twists and turns and brimming with chills and thrills…

Karen Anderson – Red Cloaked Figure
Gilian Cally – Sister
Tom Cornish – John
Tina Gray – Blind Sister
Callum Hughes – Hotel Clerk
Stuart Organ – Police Chief
Sam Pay – Restaurant Proprietor
Charlotte Powell – Laura

Director Simon Jessop
Set & Costume Designer Norman Coates
Musical Director Steven Markwick
Lighting Designer Mark Dymock

A Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch production of Don’t Look Now
adapted by Nell Leyshon from the story by Daphne du Maurier
23rd October – 14th November, 2015


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