The Bells

A Hazard Theatre Production Company Production
Directed by Mike McCormack
Adapted by Deborah McAndrew
Unity Theatre
Saturday 25th January 2014

Reviewed by Sarah Ryan

Picture this, 19th Century Alsace, France, a cold, snowy Christmas Eve night, a convivial inn and a dark secret. Everything you need for a ‘great mid-winter chiller’.

This Victorian melodrama served up a lively dish of comedy and music, with plenty of playing for laughs, especially in the banter between Father Walter, (Liam Murphy), and his drinking partner Hans, played by Chris Tomlinson, whose drunken, romantic attempts after anything in a skirt raised a few laughs. One of the objects of Hans’ romantic bungling is Sozel, the maid at the inn, played by Isobel Balchin, who hammed it up brilliantly and threw some awesomely mental looks, showing real potential as a comic actress!

Through Father Walter and Hans we are introduced to the terrible secret which is hanging over this remote little inn and the people who live there. Counterpoised against this dark secret is the imminent wedding between our young lovers, the inn keeper’s daughter, Annette, played by Roisin Fletcher and her handsome local chief of police, Christian, (Jake Norton). So the scene is set for a whodunit with all the classic ingredients.

Overall there was a lot to be said for this production, with a multi-faceted cast that were thoroughly enjoying themselves, some lovely traditional ensemble singing and a gripping dream sequence, however the one thing missing was suspense. I would have liked a bit more of a mystery with a few red herrings to keep me guessing, but maybe I’ve been spoilt by all that modern Swedish crime drama and was expecting something a little more complex. As a straightforward melodrama it worked quite well, but it could definitely be improved with more in-depth characterisation and more twists within the plot.

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