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The Edge of Darkness

by on 25 January 2023

No Spine Left Untingled

The Edge of Darkness

by Brian Clemens

Teddington Theatre Club at the Hampton Hill Theatre until 28th January  

Review by Heather Moulson

As befits an Edwardian thriller, the set of The Edge of Darkness consists of a drawing room with intricate oak panelling, sinister French doors, mysterious hallways and an intriguing bureau, all picked out in very moody lighting.  The authenticity and atmosphere of this period piece, with gas lamps lit accordingly, sets the audience up nicely for this suspenseful three act play by Brian Clemens, who wrote this creepy tale in 1975.

Every character is under suspicion in this gothic yarn.  Even the somewhat bawdy yet sensitive maid, Penny, who is played with light relief by a vibrant Lara Parker, getting every detail right when waiting table, could be the one.  When the Cranwells bring their estranged daughter Emma home after losing her memory for three years, we know there is dark underlying doubt.

Hardy, the handsome yet highly suspicious handyman, played beautifully by Paul Grimwood, is distinctly underhand.  He often visits the bureau that appeared to hold so many keys to this clever tale of mystery and murder.  As the key to this tight text literally turns, we encounter the sinister yet enticing Livago, in a play already full of such characters.  Sharp suited, natural, Oliver Redpath’s performance in this role is incisive and intelligent, a catalyst that reveals secrets and schemes, turning the plot around, and finally exposing the Cranwells.  

Max Cranwell, played by Steven Peters, is sincere and thorough.  He and his wife Laura, intelligently portrayed by Juanita Al-Dahhan, let out teasing glimpses of reticence that tell us things are not as they seem … that there is a scheme afoot.  Meanwhile, the vulnerable Emma, recovering from a traumatic memory loss, lets herself unravel nicely.  As played with convincing nervous energy by Julie Davis, her trances are genuinely unnerving.

With the lighting and tense music, there are genuine moments of horror, and at the very least, creepiness, but not once does it fall into melodrama.

Steve Taylor’s clever direction brings full justice to this spiralling and beautifully written play.   The stunning set designed by Wesley Henderson Roe, and splendid Edwardian costumes arranged by Mags Wrightson take straight into the period.  The excellent, effective lighting by Patrick Troughton and haunting sound by Jacob Taylor enhance the unsettling mood.    

The Edge of Darkness is a very well-thought-out production, with no detail spared, and no spine left untingled.  See it if you dare.

Heather Moulson, January 2023

Photography by Stephen Sitton

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