Comedy thriller The Cat and the Canary offers laughs and suspense in a classic ‘old dark house’ story – and there’s still time to see it
The new adaptation of the murder mystery by John Willard is being performed at the Lichfield Garrick until Saturday, so grab your tickets for a night of creepy entertainment.
Bill Kenwright’s Classic Thriller Theatre Company builds on the decade-long success of The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, and Living was lucky enough to see a previous adaption of The Lady Vanishes at the same venue.
After seeing two different plays by the same theatre company I can safely say that it is worth keeping an eye out for further performances. You can expect deeply atmospheric set design, high calibre acting and a wonderful sense of mystery.
The Cat and the Canary opens onto the library of a stately home; lightning crashes outside the long French windows and the creepy skeletal curios which line the shelves cast unsettling shadows on the scene.
The story takes place 20 years after the death of eccentric Mr Cyrus West and sees his descendants gather at a remote mansion to learn who will inherit his vast wealth and the hidden family jewels. What could go wrong?
Heading the cast is silver screen and Bond-girl legend Britt Ekland, whose numerous films include The Man with The Golden Gun with Roger Moore, The Wicker Man with Christopher Lee, and Get Carter with Michael Caine. Britt shines as creepy housekeeper, the inaccurately named Mrs Pleasant, who has more time for the spirits of the house than the living guests gathered inside.
The guests consisted of nervous vet Paul Jones, played by Mark Jordon, known for his 16-year role as PC Phil Bellamy on Heartbeat and more recently Daz Spencer in Emmerdale. He did a superb job of delivering some slapstick comedy and got a lot of laughs from the audience.
Tracy Shaw, best known for her long-running role as Maxine Peake in Coronation Street, played glamorous writer with a dark secret, Annabelle West. It was interesting to see her transform from a calm, collected 1950s starlet to a terrified wreck of a woman who soon regretted being the legal heir.
West End leading lady Marti Webb, known for Evita and Tell Me On A Sunday, played Susan Sillsby, whose drunken comments let the cat out of the bag (sorry, couldn’t resist). She mothered her niece, Cicily Sillsby, played by Nikki Patel, who portrayed a spoilt Indian princess who longed for a sense of independence and adventure – if only she knew what was in store.
Gary Webster and Ben Nealon provided some testosterone-fuelled drama in the form of confrontations between high tempered boxer Harry Blythe and shallow actor Charlie Wilder.
The cast was completed by Eric Carte, who played Geoff Roberts in two series of Bouquet of Barbed Wire, Martin Carrol, known for the company’s previous plays of Rehearsal for Murder and The Lady Vanishes and Jack Taylor, who toured in Hamlet with the Young Shakespeare Company.
We were wowed by the performances and atmospheric use of lighting to create feelings of isolationism, fear and drama. Punchy elements of humour alleviated the suspense and tension, offering a different approach to the more intense play, The Lady Vanishes.
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