N J Crisp
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Watching a play in the Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season used to be a pastime that many people pursued because most other theatres were dark during the summer. Now it has become an almost unmissable treat thanks largely to a strong cast and a clever choice of plays.
The 2019 rep season started with Wait Until Dark, Frederick Knott’s masterpiece featuring a complex plot with endless twists and a tense ending which is “charged and nerve-racking”.
I remarked that the play had raised the bar to another level and it would be fascinating to see whether the next three plays in the season could match the thrills and quality of Wait Until Dark.
Next came Francis Durbridge’s Murder with Love, a “gripping” psychological thriller despite its age.
Tabs then revived Brian Clemens and Dennis Spooner’s Anybody for Murder, a comedy thriller which earlier in the year was one seventh of a repertory season celebrating 70 years of Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre.
Both of them were good and up to Tabs Productions’ usual high standard.
The final play, Dangerous Obsession by British dramatist and novelist Norman James Crisp, is equally as good if not better.
The three-hander is a Thriller Season departure in that it features actors who weren’t on stage in the other plays. It will go on a short tour later in the year. Audiences around the country shouldn’t miss it.
Dangerous Obsession centres on John Barrett who unexpectedly appears at the home of Sally and Mark Driscoll. He’d met them once before at a function in Torquay. After a while, he reveals he’s looking for someone to blame for a car crash which tragically involved his wife.
The Driscolls’ apparently perfect lives gradually unravel as Barrett forces them to tell the truth. Could either of them have been the cause of the crash? Or is Barrett unhinged and not responsible for his actions?
Astutely directed by Karen Henson, Dangerous Obsession sizzles with tension from the moment Michael Sherwin as Barrett turns up at the Driscolls’ stylish conservatory in the Home Counties.
Sherwin is superb as the boring, awkward, creepy Barrett lacking in social skills. His staccato delivery gives credence to his insistence that his wife was a good conversationalist and “she made up for me”.
Angie Smith, who was “stunning” as Helen in the 2018 Classic Thriller season production of John Goodrum’s The Nightmare Room, is similarly impressive as Sally. She goes through a range of emotions as her initial uncomfortableness at Barrett’s arrival changes to horror and despair as events unfold.
Mark Huckett is transformed too, from the rude, tired businessman with no time for Barrett to a frightened, desperate character without morals or principles.
All three give measured, commendable performances. The only time you need to suspend your disbelief is when the Driscolls talk about trying for a baby; they seem too old to be thinking about parenthood.
Dangerous Obsession is a memorable way to finish a season which is clearly the best that I can remember in the 17 years that I’ve been reviewing for the BTG. Roll on next July when the Classic Thriller Season returns.
* This review originally appeared on the British Theatre Guide website