Wellington Theatre Company present:
Night Must Fall
The final play of the Easter Festival of Plays at the Gaiety Theatre for 2019 was psychological thriller Night Must Fall presented by Wellington Theatre Company from Telford, Shropshire. The evening also saw monologues from the winner and runner up from this year’s Young Actor of Mann competition and the Festival Awards Ceremony.
Night Must Fall written by Emlyn Williams was first performed in 1935 and, as noted by adjudicator Jill Colby, is a classic of repertory theatre. Set in a dreary bungalow in the middle of the Essex woodland, Mrs Bramson, a self-pitying elderly woman, lives with her niece Olivia and two servants. One day, the young maid Dora reveals she is pregnant and that the father is a rogue Dan. Dan arrives at the house and immediately charms Mrs Bramson, becoming her personal assistant. Olivia however is not taken in by his suave demeanour. The subsequent discovery of a mutilated body in the garden leads to a series of chilling discoveries and a dramatic climax.
As the curtains opened an impressive set was revealed, with and a single blue light illuminated an unknown figure whose judicial sentence was read in a sombre tone. There was effective use of lighting and sound throughout the performance, building tension and atmosphere.
Each of the actors were strong and maintained a good level of vitality. Ruth Cowell as Mrs Bramson brought energy to the part and was highly believable as the dominant matriarch. Olivia – played by Lauren Ebrey – had a pleasing sense of characterisation and handled the change in her affections well. Joseph Maclean as Hubert was described by the adjudicator as ‘boring but in an interesting way’. Mrs Terence – portrayed by Laura Delves – had a high physical and vocal energy and picked out the humorous notes with precision. Jess Bracken as Dora gave the part the necessary sensitivity and uncertainty as her lover discards her. Dan – played by Dan Phillips – had charm and menace in equal measure and demonstrated carefully chosen movement. His appearance at the window in the second Act is one that added a great drama to the production.
Jill Colby felt that the director created clean pictures and highlighted the humour in the piece. The tension was brought out and increased at the appropriate moments in the performance. However, the adjudicator felt there could have been greater contrast in class between the characters, as each seemed too equal in status.
Overall, the production was one of invention and commitment. The adjudicator in her initial comments outlined the manifold challenges of the play: to build tension as the authority switches from Mrs Bramson to Dan; to avoid clichéd characterisation; and, to demonstrate relationships which are believable. Wellington Theatre tackled each challenge well and brought variety and contract to the piece with some effective use of pause and dramatic tension.