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Something to Hide

by on 8 November 2018

Hide and Shriek

Something to Hide

by Leslie Sands

SMDG at Hampton Hill Theatre until 10th November

Review by Eleanor Marsh

Something to Hide by the actor and writer Leslie Sands is a piece of its time: the 1950’s. Wisely, SMDG’s director, Jean Wood has chosen to leave it firmly where it belongs in terms of staging and thus it may be viewed as a “period” as opposed to “dated”. This overall feel is enhanced by touches such as masking scene changes by closing the curtains – something I’ve not seen in the theatre in a long time – and the choice of contemporary 1950’s music playing on the radio. Jerome Kern’s The Way You Look Tonight is a particularly good choice of song to evoke the atmosphere of what is both happening and about to happen.

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Although the plot relies on several descriptive speeches of offstage action to move on, it is written is such a way that – as long as the actors are up to it – it does not appear as static and laboured as some other plays of its genre. In the main SMDG’s actors are more than up to this task of storytelling-acting and the dramatic action moves at a good pace.

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The play is mooted as a “thriller” and it has everything an Agatha Christie fan could wish for: murder, adultery, blackmail, deception, twists and turns of plot and even a nosy neighbour. The cast is small and all are enthusiastic.

Hide 027aSue Birks and Gina Way both seem to be having fun playing respectively the nosy neighbour and the cleaner. These characters are somewhat superfluous to the plot but serve the good purpose of relieving the tension just when it is needed. The other minor role of Mr Purdie the mechanic is played by Paul Lawston. Nicola Doble does her best with the somewhat underwritten role of Julie. She has little to work with, but is a crucial character and Ms Doble is both three dimensional and sympathetic. As the protagonist (or is he…?) Howard Holt played by Richard Pool is suave and comes into his own towards the end of the play.

Hide 979aSusan Reoch, as the moneyed wife, Karen is well cast, demonstrating vulnerability and steely determination in equal measure. And completing the cast we have the excellent Darren McIlroy as the dogged – and very clever – Inspector Davies. Like Chief Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder, Davies is a forerunner of Columbo and there must have been a temptation to play him as a caricature, but thankfully both actor and director resisted temptation and there was an almost audible sigh of relief from the audience when Davies’ reassuring presence announced itself in Act Two.

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Technically this production had some challenges – mainly in the (lack of) attention to detail. The overall look of the set did exactly what it was supposed to and took us immediately into the country home of a wealthy couple. However, the curtains in this rather grand house were the wrong length and un-ironed, the rather upmarket and business-like desk was mismatched with a dining chair and a rogue briefcase found its way into the centre of the set for no reason that I can recall, causing the actors to walk around or over it. This was quite distracting. Costumes were flattering to the ladies and serviceable for the men. Although not always true to period they enhanced rather than detracted from the overall ambience. Lighting and sound both suffered a little from the curse of the touring show – first time “live” in a new building, but the effects were good and my main complaint here is that the radio music at the beginning of the play was too loud – I was expecting Miss Cunningham the neighbour to be complaining about the noise when she knocked on the door …

Overall this was a very entertaining piece and a lovely nostalgic trip back in time and Ms Wood must have been delighted at the first night audience’s gasps and screams on more than one occasion during the play. There can surely be no finer recommendation for a thriller than that!

Eleanor Marsh
November 2018

Photography by Bill Bulford

From → Drama, Reviews

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