HOUSE GUEST – Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth


24 June 2024




A yearly celebration takes place in the seaside town of Sidmouth in Devon; the opening of the Summer Play Festival; 12 plays performed in 12 weeks forming the longest running repertory theatre season in the UK. With advance ticket sales as good as they have ever been there is every reason to be optimistic about the 2024 Season. As ever the line-up for the summer contains a real pick and mix of thrillers, comedies and dramas; just about something for everyone.

The Season opened with a favourite of the local audiences, a Francis Durbridge thriller. Now, this reviewer hasn’t always found these plays particularly thrilling; a great writer for the radio and TV but, though intricately plotted, his stage plays are often turgid with little theatricality. ‘House Guest’ first hit theatres in 1981 starring Gerald Harper; the story of Robert and Stella Drury whose young son is kidnapped and will only be released if one of the abductors can stay in the Drury’s house for 48 hours.

As ever the plot is highly detailed and there seem to be even more twists and turns than usual. One can only admire the imagination of the writer. When reviewing a thriller, care must be taken not to give too much away, suffice to say that in this particular play not everyone is what they seem and by the interval the audience is rightly flummoxed. This is certainly a far better Durbridge production than I have seen thus far, I suspect there might have been some judicious cuts made to the script to whip up the pace and it has the desired effect. Though the convolutions come thick and fast this is a very entertaining production which the impressively large first night audience lapped up.

The strong cast is lead by Dafydd Gwyn Howells and Rachel Fletcher-Hudson as the Drury’s backed with solid performances from Eoin Lynch, Mark Laverty, Emily Outred, Thomas Willshire and Bridget Lambert; all of whom have appeared in the Summer Festival before. Making her debut at Sidmouth, Sarah-Jane Worrall provides a real stand out performance in the role of Dorothy – a little comic gem. As mentioned, offering up too much detail would be wrong, so best go and find out for yourself.

With a play set in the 1980’s the attention to detail in set, props and costumes is self-evident; it is never easy to represent the near past, but the creative team don’t put a step wrong here. Andrew Beckett (Associate Producer and Set Designer) keeps the proceedings really tight as Director and ensures the plot bowls along.

A great start to the Season and, though this reviewer is yet to be convinced by Durbridge stage plays, when tackled like this it can offer audiences a great night out.



Robert Drury – Dafydd Gwyn Howells

Stella Drury – Rachel Fletcher-Hudson

Jane Mercer – Emily Outred

Crozier – Thomas Willshire

Vivien Norwood – Bridget Lambert

Burford – Eoin Lynch

Clayton – Mark Laverty

Dorothy Medway – Sarah-Jane Worrall



Writer – Francis Durbridge

Director – Andrew Beckett

Design – Andrew Beckett

Lighting & Sound Operation – James Prendergast

Costume Designer – Jan Huckle


Artistic Director – Paul Taylor-Mills

Season Associate Producer – Andrew Beckett