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.

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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.

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