It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

NODA Said:

Alvechurch Dramatic Society
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
Alvechurch Village Hall
Directors Stephen Siddle & Chris Tomlin
29th November 2013

Born in Sagus, Massachusetts in 1937, Tim Kelly is reputedly America’s most published playwright with over 300 titles to his name. He died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage in 1998. Only a handful of his works are available for the amateur stage in the UK and ‘It Was a Dark and Stormy Night’ was in the words of Stephen Siddle a ‘challenge’ for his first production as a Director, a challenge on this experience which was well met.

The plot for this spooky comedy set in the 1950s revolved around the kooky Saltmarsh family and their ‘atmospheric’ home, Ye Olde Wayside Inn. Situated on the shore of Massachusetts, this out-of-season old lodging house is the home of this unusual family, to whom the audience were introduced as the story unfolded. Thunderstorms bring out the worst and best of the Saltmarsh family and all present have a night to remember. The Saltmarsh family, comprising cousins Ebenezer, Hepzibah, Arabella, and Uncle Silas, kept their visitors on edge with their peculiar habits and family skeletons.

Both cousins Hepzibah (Pauline Chadaway) and Arrabella (Sue Resuggan) performed well, complete with the right levels of nervous laughter, being once residents of the local charity “hospital”, along with Uncle Silas (Charles Sims) who is known as the oldest living maniac in Massachusetts. Stealing the stage from beginning to end was the villain of the play, Ebenezer (Brian Watkiss), with consistently unnerving gaze, a sinister yet slightly leering look, dressed in blue dungarees and with well-rehearsed walking stick demonstrating ease on stage. The family has a strange hired girl, Olive, (Emily Waller) in a range of costumes, and also another member called “The General”.

Jane Adams (Helen Tuite), Mary Shaw (Leah Yendell), Belle Malibu (Jo Bestwick), Dawson (Chris Davies), Dorothy Blake (Gemma Batty) and Smiling Sal (Fiona Holmes) are subsequently introduced to us, each having their individual reason for being in this strange dwelling place. Officer Snell (Martin Salter) and Ed Perkins (Adam Brown) then appear in this somewhat unpredictable play, which ended with a cameo performance from 16-year old Emily Scicluna, in her debut role for the Society as Euphemia Porter, in which she provided the last laugh.

A number of exceptional characterisations and accents were portrayed on a set which included curtains hung together with cobwebs, a rickety staircase and realistic props enhanced by highly effective costumes, all designed to bring a very authentic tone to this peculiar story.

Unpredictable yes, though unpredictability that just made the whole experience more entertaining for the audience, some of whom came away feeling a bit unsure as to what the whole thing was really about. A play with a difference embracing a quality cast that delivered a most enjoyable evening.

Ian Cox