By Julia Anderson
Playhouse audiences love a good thriller and these don’t come more sure-plotted, atmospheric or suspenseful than the appropriately titled Nightmare, written by Norman Robbins in 1988.
Marion Bishop, 71 and terminally ill, has made a fortune writing Mills and Boon novels. Interested parties descend to fuss around her and the plot thickens.
With mysterious phone-calls, predatory faces spying at the darkened window, disguises, blackmail, several deaths along the way and motives galore, this play has everything to tease and intrigue.
And under John Cohen’s beautifully paced, dramatically lit direction it is strongly cast, superbly acted and very entertaining.
Marion Bishop may look frail and easy to manipulate but Yvonne Kniveton brought out her steely, subtle strength and canny intelligence with great spirit.
Steve Garrod was creepily solicitous and plausible as her doctor, aided and abetted by Catherine Pasek’s unnervingly sinister performance as nurse Laura Vinnecombe. Simon Reece was suitably predatory as Raymond Shapley, Marion’s mysterious, estranged nephew, with Lynn Lord not entirely reassuring as helpful neighbour Doris Meacham. Sarah Mansley seemed genuine enough as Katherine Willis her carer, with Tel Banham making a stunning debut as her brain-damaged brother Michael.
The genteel drawing room of Marion Bishop’s country house was beautifully realised by Elinor Beaumont’s applause-winning set. If you love mystery thrillers, don’t miss this one. On until Saturday.