Night Must Fall

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich


Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

It all looks so cosy at first sight. The drawing room of a house in the depths of the country, with a glimpse of flowers through the windows.

But there is something odd. To one side of the stage, high up, there hangs a noose, clinically white, securely knotted, and, most worryingly of all, swinging ever so gently in the breeze.

Then, before the plot can even start, we have a surprise that appears to prejudge the conclusion. This is just one of the many ways in which Emlyn Williams ups the tension in a play that works on your nerve endings.

To make the mystery palpitate, director Peter Sowerbutts assembles a powerful cast. Susan Seddon makes Mrs Bramson an authoritarian, peevish, hypochondriac. She rules the roost from her wheelchair while Sally Dixon as her niece knows just how to create an impression of still waters running deep and chilling.

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Dawn Brindle and Sarah Whiteman provide the quirky minor parts essential in a drama written between the Wars, and John Hare is the embodiment of a detective inspector. His conventional interpretation cunningly contrasts with the complexities that Luke Graham puts into the puzzling character who is the very soul of the play.

Dozens of neat little touches contribute to the rather delightful period atmosphere; there are a lot of laughs. But the giggles are always uneasy as we wait for the investigations to come to a head. The secret of the interpretation lies in the pacing, even in the stalling, towards the end as confidence drains away and the truth comes out as the daylight fades.

This is a performance for those who like murder to be ingenious, delayed and finally inevitable.