23 August 2019
An effective stage thriller is pretty hard to pull off. When you only have a very small number of characters to play with it is even more tricky; ‘Sleuth’, ‘The Business of Murder’ are but two names that spring to mind as successful. ‘Dangerous Obsession’, by renown TV script writer N.J.Crisp was first performed in 1987 at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, starring the great Dinsdale Landen – a production I happened to see.
The play is a slow burn as the audience gradually have elements of the story revealed to them bit by bit. The Driscoll’s lead an outwardly happy life in their smart dwelling and don’t want for anything. When a relative stranger arrives unexpectedly matters soon turn to the dramatic as he informs the couple of their part in a tragic accident involving his wife.
The action plays out on a beautifully realised sets with huge angled windows with a view of a patio and a set of French doors leading into the rest of the house. Tasteful and modern and classy – spot-on designs from Andrew Beckett. The script has been somewhat updated from the late 1980’s – a good move.
The first act, running to just 35 minutes, is very much a scene setter, laying the foundations for the longer exposition and denouement of the second half. The story is very carefully constructed by the writer who drip feeds plot points throughout. As something of a psychological thriller, there are a lot of words and little action and the actors hold the attention pretty well as matters unravel. The Driscoll’s, Sally and Mark, are played with a hefty dose of arrogance by Julia Main and Toby Joyce who are gradually terrified into submission by their visitor – their disintegration is effectively put over. As John Barrett, the visitor, Mark Laverty is all smiles and politeness until he suddenly turns nasty. Behind the mild exterior, brews a complex and disturbed mind and the actor gives every indication that he might do something impulsive any second.
There is no denying the hard work of the trio, they have to hold the audience with words, not deeds; the plot is straightforward to follow, but there is a sense of wanting it to get a move on at points. This is more the fault of the play than anything else – intriguing though it is, the pace is too pedestrian to be truly gripping until the final ten minutes. I don’t think there is much more that can be done by director Andrew Beckett – it is a decent play but not a great one.
All said, the production is perfectly good and well performed and staged, but the longueurs of the script just hold it back.
CAST & CREATIVES
SALLY DRISCOLL – JULIA MAIN
JOHN BARRETT – MARK LAVERTY
MARK DRISCOLL – TOBY JOYCE
WRITER – N.J. CRISP
DIRECTOR – ANDREW BECKETT
DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECHNICAL SERVICES LTD.
COTUME SUPERVISOR – JANET HUCKLE
SEASON PRODUCERS – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS, STUART BURROWS, JONNY CLINES