Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

danger in the dark

Darkness adds to the danger for Richard Haines as Mark and Tamsin Hunt as Sally with Richard Price's John in the backgound, calling the shots.

Dangerous Obsession

Sutton Arts Theatre


The secret of psychological thrillers is having that underlying hint of terror, a normality which is not quite right, a fear that has no reason you can quite see . . . and, of course, a nutter.

Not your wide-eyed, crazed, loony, Jack Nicholson sort of nutter, but one who appears normal, or at least as near as most people manage to normality, but with a dash of the sinister for no other reason than all is not quite right.

So, enter John Barrett who arrives, unannounced, at the Hertfordshire home of Mark and Sally Driscoll looking like a maths teacher from a minor public school, a little nervous, a little precise and even old fashioned with his speech, and despite his meek and mild manner, most insistent that he knows Sally and her husband and should come in and wait for Mark to return from work. He has something he wants to talk to him about.

Sally, who has been sunbathing in a rather revealing bathing costume, is now alone with a man who seems harmless enough, at least for now, but perhaps, she decides, a top might be an idea, just in case.

The return of Mark adds another element with John appearing to feel subservient, even inferior, to the obviously wealthy and successful Driscolls. And then, in a flash, that hint of danger, that all is not quite right, becomes pure terror – oh, and we have an interval.


Tamsin Hunt, as Sally, finds a swimsuit adds to her vulnerability

Director Dexter Whitehead does a fine job of slowly building the tension with no tricks or stunts, just words, to the interval climax. You knew something is not quite right but couldn’t quite put your finger on it – now you can forget your finger and stand on it with both feet.

The three hander is blessed with a superb cast, all with professional experience, who bring the characters to believable life.

Richard Price gives a masterful performance as Barrett, starting as the hesitant and nervous interloper who would, at the outset at least, hardly hurt a fly, slowly almost imperceptibly taking control.

He is working to a logic, one that might be perverse, that might be out of step with rational thought, but a logic that still makes some sort of sense, which makes the terror even more real.

Tamsin Hunt is an attractive Sally, not really a part of the drama about to unfold, a bystander, collateral damage, and badly damaged she is at the end of it all. At one point she is a tit for tat bargaining chip, at another attempting to be the voice of reason, at another fearing for her life.

Richard Haines is a generally dislikeable Mark. Driscoll sees himself as the successful businessman, far superior to the lowly Barrett who he treats initially with less than sincere politeness and then with open disdain.

Come Act 2 and all is revealed bit by bit, questions dragging out answers, screaming and kicking at times, lies shot down in flames, lives and dreams dashed until the truth, or at least most of it is laid bare. Not that this is the end of it, not quite, there is still a little twist, the last vestige of the story to reveal as the world sinks back into . . . a different normal.

Whitehead and his cast have created a beautifully paced piece with a second act full of tension and danger without ever drifting into melodrama. Hunt, Price and Haines create three well defined and rounded characters and turn a clever plot into a convincing and gripping drama.

A mention too for the set, designed by Jeff Darlow, Mark Natrass and Whitehead which would not look out of place on any professional stage. It even got its own round of applause when the curtains opened.

The detail was remarkable with blinds that worked and even a video backdrop of a leafy garden beyond the windows so that we saw bushes and leaves move in a breeze occasionally while mist drifted past from time to time as the summer evening drew on.

And a tick as well for Stephen Curran for the special effects. All too often an actor holding out two fingers and saying bang would be as effective as the guns used in many a production.

None of your sound effect bangs here, usually seconds after a gun is fired; this is real guns, or at least a realistic stage gun, with real bangs, enough to make the audience jump, and even special effects, because, after all, fire a gun in a living room and it will do some damage.

This is a cracking thriller from N.J. Crisp which will keep you guessing to the end, well produced, well acted and well worth seeing. To 04-11-17

Roger Clarke


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