Sleep No More by David Gillespie and Colin Wakefield
Malvern Theatre Players
Coach House Theatre
Lee Farley writes for The Observer
David Gillespie & Colin Wakefield’s 2003 thriller is updated to 2015 by Malvern Theatre Players in a thoughtful and intriguing production. The play feels more old-fashioned to me, with some odd references and clichéd dialogue, but director Gill Young has assembled an excellent cast to tell this conventional story of a theatre and its ghosts.
Mickey is putting on a play in a newly-refurbished theatre. The play, “Murder By Poison”, hasn’t been performed for 60 years and, according to Mickey’s father William, it will never be performed again. The history of the play, the theatre and its secrets are revealed as the action progresses. The relationships within the cast of “Murder By Poison” – your classic love triangle – are mirrored by the text of the play they are rehearsing. Real guns are acquired as fake ones will take too long for the props team to organise. There’s a ghost, a noose and, of course, the poison. You can see where all this is headed and the play suffers from predictability, but there’s enjoyment to be had from a simple ghost story told well.
The theatre itself serves as a metaphor for artifice, secrecy & betrayal. We are constantly reminded that “Theatres are dangerous”. History repeats itself and past mistakes haunt the characters just as a ghost haunts the theatre. We are invited to consider the physical and the metaphysical, but Gillespie & Wakefield are only fleetingly interested in philosophical considerations, they’re more interested in rushing through the creaky plot.
The cast are excellent, though. Dynamic and sincere. Marcus Delorenzo is the archetypal theatrical director, harassing his cast with a sense of superiority. Jude Sanderson has mature dignity as Jenny, the leading lady recently out of retirement and surprised to find herself playing opposite the philandering cad Peter Turner, played with a contemporary sneer and a casual arrogance by Jonny Stephens. Abi Smith elicits sympathy as the naive but conscientious Sally Green, a stage manager cajoled into her first acting role. Iain Young is believably confused & haunted as Mickey’s father William. Sam Powell is perfectly cast as Jenny’s son Ben, torn between his protective mother, the new relationship he’s forming with Peter and the mysterious young girl he meets at the theatre. Elizbeth Boyle is convincingly unnerving as Eva who….well, I won’t spoil it for you…. but it’s a superb performance from this young actor.
Sleep No More runs until Saturday at the impressive Coach House Theatre. As always, I encourage you to go along and support theatre in your local community. Malvern is lucky to have such terrific, dedicated companies working with such excellent local actors, directors, designers & crew.