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He’s behind you!

Benighted at the Old Red Lion Theatre

19 December, 2016 — By Michael Stewart

Harrie Hayes in Benighted. Photo: Chris Gardner

IT is a dark and stormy night and three travellers – two men and a woman – are driving through the wilds of Wales when a dam bursts and they are forced to seek shelter.

The only house visible through the pounding rain is a grim mansion of the Bates Motel variety, and they quickly realise their mistake when the door is opened by the butler, a blank-faced brute of a mute who greets them with a growl.

The trio have stumbled on the Femm household resided over by the eerie, other-worldly Horace Femm, assisted by his sister Rebecca, the butler Morgan and enough skeletons in the cupboard to populate the Roman Catacombs.

Horace is godless but his sister is a fanatical god-botherer who never talks if she can shout. Clad from head to foot in black, she resembles a wraith; all that is missing is a scythe. You get the feeling she is about to fetch one any minute.

The storm gathers and fearful thuds and explosions can be heard from upstairs compounding the sense of imminent doom. Horace reveals there is yet another brother locked away in a room who is even loonier than the rest of them.

What’s more, Morgan is unleashed and lurching around in a drunken stupor intent on ravishing the pretty female guest. The Addams Family have nothing on this lot.

Adapted by Duncan Gates from JB Priestley’s book and James Whale’s film version, The Old Dark House starring Boris Karloff, the actors have a whale of a time parodying 30s acting styles.

Gregor Donnelly’s set is a superb recreation of German Expressionist design; all weird angles and warped perspectives, and David Gregor’s sound design puts the fear of God into you. Together they turn the house into a powerful presence, the star of the show.

If you want an antidote to the schmaltz of Christmas pay a visit to this old dark house at the Old Red Lion. Mind you, it does little for Welsh tourism.

Until January 7 0844 412 4307


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