The Denys Edwards Players invited us to review their current production “Sleep No More” at the Library Theatre. The Library Theatre can be found at the rear of the main Central Library on Surrey Street. The venue is basic but intimate with a well-stocked bar and other refreshments on offer at reasonable prices, perfect for the interval.
This production is a ‘play within a play’ and set in a theatre that has been closed for sixty years, following the accidental death of a child during rehearsals for “Murder by Poison,” a Victorian thriller. Now, despite warnings that the play is doomed, Micky, the great-grandson of the theatre’s original owner is restoring the theatre to the glory of its former heyday and to cap his plans he’s intent on reviving the very same play to re-open the renovated theatre, with terrifying consequences as William, Micky’s father insists throughout that the play is cursed.
The play delves into the personal lives of the actors. We find out that Peter and Jenny had a fling 10 years prior whilst performing in the Twelfth Night in York and we get a front-row seat to the awkwardness that plays out on stage between the pair once they are reunited and a shocking secret is revealed.
The show was pegged as a supernatural thriller but had some very funny comedic moments which had the audience in fits of laughter, especially during the “rehearsal sessions”. Even though there were light-hearted moments, the show was macabre in its subject, with death being a central plot device.
The set was simple yet effective. The lighting, in particular, created a chilling atmosphere when the spirit of the girl Eva who is haunting the theatre is revealed and continues when we find out what happened to her 65 years ago.
Director Sue Cox used the space of the theatre brilliantly with the actors not only using the stage but also the areas off and to the side of the stage, often walking into the audience and using the whole of the theatre to show that the play was actually set in a theatre, so it felt you were right in the middle of the story.
Pete played by Paul North really threw himself into the part of the violent drunk with an eye for the ladies. Sophie Pérez-Smith is hilarious as stage-hand Sal and also plays the maid Tilly, her acting skills were on show when her acting was intentionally wooden during the rehearsal scenes. Ben who was played by Ben Rossiter commanded the stage especially when performing with the ghost of Eva, played by Ashleigh Andrew. Ashleigh gave an eerie performance and came across just the right amount of creepy to convey her story. John Castell gave a convincing performance as William a slightly crazy and eccentric old man who wonders the theatre every night talking to Eva. Angela Blackwell, playing Jenny and Andrew Hibbert who played Micky were great together on stage. Both of them conveyed successfully the emotional torment at both their losses when the plot twist was revealed. Angela’s subtle body language during the performance was super impressive, helping to make her character more believable.
The Denys Edward Players put on a good show with some great acting, while the plot was sometimes predictable it didn’t detract from the suspense and enjoyment of the production.
Sleep No More is at The Library Theatre until Friday 28th March.