The Old Dark House

Directed by Stephen Senneck
Williamson Tunnels, Smithdown Lane
Saturday 4th February 2012

Reviewed by Sarah Ryan

Dare you enter indeed! The Williamson Tunnels was a fitting and somewhat chilling venue for this adaptation of the 1932 American comedy/horror shocker of the same name, which was originally directed by James Whale and starred the incredibly spooky, master of horror, Boris Karloff. A lot to live up to, you may think, after all there’s only one Boris Karloff!

Directed by Stephen Senneck, both he and his cast gamely played and hammed it up for laughs with the odd thrills and chills along the way. What with the grunts and growls of the psychopathic mute ‘Morgan’, played by Andrew Senneck – which was redolent of Mel Brooks’ monster in Young Frankenstein (1974) – and the high pitched cackling of Horace the sinister host, played by Albert Hastings, who was only too keen to show you his etchings! The characterisation could only get hammier when we met Rebecca, played by Alicia Rose, who shuffles in, clad in black like some bent-backed, stone-deaf Sicilian widow sporting a large mole. There were some nice touches with the vintage clothes and plummy accents sported by the two female leads, which added to the 1940s feel. I particularly enjoyed Colin Rice as Phillip whose ‘hammy’ eyebrow raising stares just tipped over from comedy to horror and back again. While the ‘ham-fisted’ fight scenes added to the physical comedy and suspension of disbelief.

The direction used the venue effectively, though I had a couple of niggles with the special effects as I did wonder what happened to the thunderstorm and torrential rain when they opened the door to retrieve their suitcases and it was all quiet on the western front, so to speak! The cast had to cope with a few run-ins with the props, which at one point seemed to have a life of their own and threatened to add some unwanted drama to the proceedings when the lit candle was knocked off the table! However the cast masterfully and calmly overcame these and cleverly incorporated them into the performance. Niggles aside, having fortified myself with two glasses of wine and kept the coat on to stave off the bitter cold, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

What with the stormy night, marooned honeymooners, desolate house with sinister householders and various incarcerated psychopathic relatives, every comedy/horror box was ticked and then some! Not to mention the twist in the tale… The cast approached the play enthusiastically and what with the chilling venue and energetic performances I think Boris can rest easy.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by amanda lancaster on 20th February, 2012 at 12:28
What a fab review!....well done all of you!!! xxx