Review: The Wicked Lady at Tyne Theatre
The Wicked Lady – Friday 17th February
Flickering from within the tree-line, a single lamp burns in one upstairs window of an otherwise long-abandoned house.
The chilling disappearance of a young child is what leads to Alice Beaumont being thrown into this isolated place, shrouded in secrecy and troubled by rumours of a ghostly past. Does the house itself hold the secret or has Alice unlocked something even more unsettling? The crying winds of this terrifying ghost story become even more haunting when Alice finds herself trapped in the undeniable feeling that although she is far away from anyone else, she is almost certainly never alone. (Tyne Theatre website)
Walking into the Tyne Theatre and Opera House I truly did not know what to expect from ‘The Wicked Lady’. Yes, I knew it was a ghost tale but I have watched spooky plays before. None of which compare to this. I was not prepared for where this crazily windy evening (thanks Storm Otto) would take me. I should have been more prepared as the website clearly declares – This production contains moments of extreme shock and horror.
Firstly, I have never visited this amazing venue before. From the front doors I was not expecting to be greeted by this lavish room. Incredibly high ceilings and wonderful decor dating back to the Victorian period. No wonder as it is one of the 23 Grade 1 listed theaters in Great Britain. Also, top shout out for good seat sizes – I definitely felt comfortable throughout the performance.
I will say the theatre was freezing cold and I couldn’t take my coat off throughout the performance. I don’t know if this was meant to add to the ambience of the show but it certainly fitted perfectly however, it did mean I could not hide behind my coat as I usually would during something scary – yes, I am a huge wuss! So you can only imagine how my evening panned out.
Our story begins with Saul Bache taking and fully commanding the stage as his character Sean Fenton – a trusty, reliable police officer. He instantly built a strong connection with the audience. Clear, loud and certainly comfortable on stage. His presence made me feel at ease. A true natural … and as for later on in the show – I cannot give too many spoilers away – he was able to change up his character effortlessly with a notable side of evil. I would not like to double cross Sean Fenton. Truly a terrific performance all round.
We quickly meet our other character soon after Sean’s monologue. Alice Beaumont played by Rebecca Thomas held her own upon stage too. I won’t lie I wasn’t sure about her performance within the first scene and found the show a little slow at first but it quickly picked up pace just like her performance. I always find horrors like this however, the setting of the scene takes a while but once it is solidified there was truly no stopping the action on stage. Rebecca’s part was a very difficult undertaking as she was on stage on her own for such a long period of time. She kept the audience engaged and on the edge of our seats throughout the production. She used the props impressively and had terrific body language in all of her scenes. At times, she didn’t even need to talk. This speaks volumes in the acting world as her presence was still electric during those silent scenes.
I really enjoyed how this play was very modern and based in London. This helped to make it feel very current and the props used reflected this too. Although, I am not too sure how easy it would be to get a train these days.
I will say I wasn’t overly sold on the staging. I understand that there were only two characters throughout the whole play and they did have to move their own scenery. At times, I think this took away from the story for me. When I first entered and saw the stage the big heavy cloth and the trees next to it really made no sense. As the show went on the curtain did draw back to reveal the haunted house, I was more impressed here. The use of simple scenery did mean we had to rely heavily on the characters and spooky effects but luckily this worked.
The use of the different levels of stage was ingenious and one of my favourite parts of the show. I then understood why the trees were at the forefront of the stage and didn’t mind this. They were very clever with using both downstage and in the audience – this left us feeling scared for our lives at any moment. As Sean said at the beginning the worst part of fear is the waiting… anticipating… for something terrifying to happen.
The most impressive parts of the whole production for me were the use of lighting and sound. A huge bravo to the whole Set, Sound and Lighting Department – Alex Johnson, Dan Clarkson, Alexandra Whitely and Joanne Marshall. The use of sound and lighting were the parts that truly gripped me and had me on the edge of my seat – or in the air off my seat from jumping out of my skin. Not a show for those who are light sensitive and struggle with flashing lights I will add however. The use of different forms of lighting were impressive too. The spotlights were strong and impactful and the UV light was particularly different and I loved that. The red light was terrifying and fit in so well with the story.
The sound effects were so eerie and they really made you feel immersed within the house as they echoed around the gigantic room. The sounds from behind actually made me feel physically sick as they felt so real. The worst sound of all however, was the little girl’s voice – literally spine tingling. They used music throughout the interval as well with the crashing thunder and the bell ringing – you could never escape that house. These two combined really made the play for me and provided us with the most jumpscares.
I do have to give a special shout out to a member of the audience, who should not have been allowed back in after his toilet break during the scariest part of the story. As he walked down the middle aisle all you could hear was a cascade of jumps and gasps as we may or may not have thought he was ‘The Wicked Lady’ – this of course set everyone off into fits of laughter.
I really enjoyed the shorter acts at 45 minutes and 40 minutes. Just long enough to be scared for as I do recall saying near the end – “I have had enough of being scared now.” I never felt bored or like the story wasn’t moving forward. I will not be giving any more of the story away as I do not want to spoil it for anyone. They also respectfully asked us to keep the story to ourselves so as to not spoil it for anyone else. Very similar to The Mousetrap vibes. First rule of The Wicked Lady is to never talk about The Wicked Lady. I think I am also too terrified to utter her name if I am honest.
So even for a huge wuss like me, I had the most wonderful evening and one me and my friend will remember forever. A huge congratulations to Writer and Director James Williams for a truly breathtaking and spine tingling show. A great and engaging albeit tiny cast who held their own with gousto, terrific lighting and sound and one truly terrifying evening.
Tickets are still available for today’s performances and who knows… The Wicked Lady might be waiting for you.
Review by Robyn McGough