The Judge's House
Sheringham Little Theatre
> Sheringham Little Theatre
With Hallowe'en approaching, I was in the mood for a spine-chiller.
That Rumpus Theatre Company's new play fails to deliver more than the occasional shiver is due to structural flaws in the adaptation that suck the life-blood from the original Bram Stoker ghost story.
Writer John Goodrum, who has a good record of staging scary stories, directs Laura Hayes and David Martin (both fine actors) in the tale of earnest young student Malcolm Malcolmson, holed up with his maths books in the deserted, rat-infested house of a dead sadistic judge.
Local innkeeper Mrs Witham and workhouse resident Mrs Dempster fuss over young Malcolm, but fail to protect him from the fate lurking in the shadows.
When the curtain goes up, the black-clad walls, spooky music, thunder and lightning set the scene for the 'terror and shocks' promised by the pre-show publicity.
- 1 Two recycling centres to be closed - and replaced with new £4m tips
- 2 Murder inquiry as teenage woman dies after car crash in Norfolk village
- 3 Man in 50s dies after medical incident in field
- 4 Man in 30s dead, two arrested on suspicion of murder in Norfolk town
- 5 Customers travelling across Norfolk to try pub's 'afternoon sea'
- 6 Road rage incident sees van driver run over by car
- 7 Tributes paid to 'lovely' teenager as police continue murder probe
- 8 Man found dead in sea off Great Yarmouth had made distress call
- 9 Police return to scene of fatal crash as murder probe continues
- 10 'Heartbroken' pet owner thanks community after missing dog found dead
But within seconds, an overlong narrative, and the semi-comic character of Mrs Witham dispel tension and dampen expectation.
This happens time and again throughout the play, so that the atmosphere of nervous exhaustion and mounting terror implicit in the story is never sustained.
With the introduction of too many plot contrivances (especially Laura Hayes having to play three different women), dramatic impact is inevitably weakened and a potentially striking final scene is thrown away.