Psychic drama fails to disturb

Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, adapted by Nell Leyshon, at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.It's not often you go to a mystery story with interesting edges of the paranormal and you come out without a single hair on the back of your neck being disturbed.

David Henshall

Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, adapted by Nell Leyshon, at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.

IT's not often you go to a mystery story with interesting edges of the paranormal and you come out without a single hair on the back of your neck being disturbed. But this play manages to do it.

Ian Dickens has a terrific record of sending cracking shows out on tour but this one gives the impression of being under-rehearsed and that it must surely get better, but it is doubtful if time will do much to improve the flat, banal dialogue and lend the play the spark of scary life and tension it desperately needs.


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This is sad because, as we know from the book and the film all the spine-chilling ingredients are there: John and Laura, shattered by the meningitis death of their young daughter, return to Venice, where they honeymooned, to try and rekindle the romance in their marriage.

There they bump into two elderly sisters, one blind with second sight, who has a vision of their dead daughter, Christine. Laura is delighted because she says, rather surprisingly, that this gives her release and hope for the future; John is simply irritated by what he regards as coincidental mumbo-jumbo.

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When they run into the sisters again, the blind woman warns John that he is in dire danger and must leave Venice at once. She also tells him he is psychic and, sure enough, he starts to see a little girl in red who keeps wandering indecisively on to the corner of the stage.

Add into the mix a police chief hunting someone who is threatening the tourist trade by cutting the throats of visitors and we ought to be on the edge of our seats and chewing our nails to the quick.

But we don't, largely because the dialogue has little bite and everything moves at a snail's pace, with such drama as there is broken by the furniture removers between each of the nine first-act scenes and the eight after the interval.

There are semi-cinematic touches which will probably work better after a while, meantime, as the couple, Nicola Bryant and Peter Amory wrestle courageously with exchanges which seldom seem natural in unnatural circumstances.

Amory's illogical character in particular stretches credibility to the point where we are barely even shocked when what purports to be psychic imagination runs into the brutal reality of everyday crime.

As the sisters, Rula Lenska and Claire Vousden, saying little, glide gently through the piece which, however, does have some nicely chilling music.

David Henshall.

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