Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Night Must Fall At The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 30 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 1 Dec, 2016

by Tricia Marcotti

I love a murder mystery. There’s something about the idea of beating the author at his or her own game. Can I work out who did it before the author tells or shows us?

Night Must Fall (at the Yvonne Arnaud through to Saturday, December 4) has suspense in spades!

Although written in 1935, the play by Emlyn Williams, is as pertinent today as the era in which it was written.

In its inaugural production, Emlyn Williams played Dan, a hotel porter, a part ably performed by Will Featherstone in this production by the Original Theatre Company.

The stage setting is true to “a bungalow in the rural forest of Essex”. You know the one, no electricity – only oil lamps, no telephone, lots of chintz – you feel that it hasn’t been touched for years!

The costuming is also superb. I love the stockings worn by Olivia (Niamh McGrady). I had a little giggle at the plus fours worn by Hubert (Alasdair Buchan) and the high waisted trousers worn by all the men.

Our leading lady Mrs Bramson (Gwen Taylor) wears clothing which are perfectly appropriate to the upperclass lady she portrays.

'Night Must Fall' Tour

Mrs Bramson in a lovely period costume, looks stern in Night Must Fall at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Credit Alastair Muir.

If the costumes and stage set aren’t enough, the lighting and sound designers (Howard Hudson and Harry Blake) complete the atmospheric setting for the audience. Tense moments in the play are accompanied by a little jolt from one or the other, but usually from both!

The director Luke Sheppard has led his cast to a very polished performance.

Gwen Taylor as Mrs Bramson shows us a crochety older woman who complains about everything at the beginning of the play, but who, under the expert manipulation of Dan (Will Featherstone), becomes more girlish with each scene.

'Night Must Fall' Tour

Mrs Bramson, avidly reading about herself in the newspaper, while Dan looks on. Credit Alastair Muir.

All of the women in the play fall under his influence to some degree.

Dora, the maid, played by Melissa Vaughan, is already under his spell and never wavers in her feelings for him. Even the daily, Mrs. Terence, has a soft spot for him. The only woman who professes not to like him at all, gives an air of secretly wanting to like him.

And yet, this is a murder mystery, so, there must be a murder, right?

Yes, but it happened offstage and before the play opens. A woman goes missing from the hotel that Dan works at. Of course, the body is found on the property of Mrs Bramson and the hunt is on for the murderer.

Inspector Belsize, from Scotland Yard, comes to investigate. He is portrayed by Daragh O’Malley, cunning and sure that he has his murderer, but not quite able to get the proofs he needs to arrest his suspect until the very end.

Olivia, Mrs Bramson’s niece, is her aunt’s paid companion. She cannot bring herself to marry Hubert, her suitor, who has taken a cottage nearby in order to woo Olivia more “ardently”.

Having brought all the characters into the story, the audience can now try to work out who the murderer is.

There is a psychological intensity to the play as well, because we must find out why the murder happens. But the play has its moments of levity too. The audience was heard laughing as well as taking sudden intakes of breath at various times during the performance.

A ‘Five Star’ rating.

Go along to the Yvonne Arnaud and have a go at catching a murderer before he murders again!

It runs until Saturday, December 4. Book online or call 01483 440000.

Star rating 5


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