N J Crisp
Angela Browne Ltd in association with Tabs Productions
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
November 12-16, 2019; 2hr 5min
The mysterious stranger, arriving in the midst of your typical suburban household, is a staple of stage drama, never mind the stuff of Neighbourhood Watch nightmares.
Dangerous Obsession takes the theme and cleverly ratchets up the tension one notch at a time in this meticulously-staged revival of the classic N J Crisp psychological thriller.
It’s crisp by name and nature: the veteran TV writer used all his ability for forensically-detailed plotting, authentic characters and carefully-crafted dialogue to create a play that has lost none of its appeal since its 1980s origins. In several ways it actually underlines the fact that the "old" ways of creating dramatic disquiet remain the best.
Dangerous Obsession neatly drops what seems like nothing more than a pebble into the midst of what appears to be domestic harmony, and lets theatregoers lap up the ripples.
John Barrett (Michael Sherwin) is the enigmatic visitor who arrives unbidden in the elegant conservatory setting of the Driscolls’ house. His outwardly benign appearance and manner disarms Sally Driscoll (Angie Smith) sufficiently for her to start dishing out the G&Ts while they await the arrival of her husband Mark (Mark Huckett).
Meantime only the audience catches sight of the stranger’s increasingly-sinister behaviour... but to say much more would spoil the surprises that lie ahead, not to mention the fully-herniated twist in the tale.
In the meantime it’s a slow and studied thriller – perhaps too slow and sometimes too still for some modern sensibilities, but that’s their loss.
For everyone else this is a satisfying and entertaining three-hander delivered with aplomb and attention to detail, thanks to director Karen Henson concentrating on the finer points.
Actors Sherwin and Smith are the couple behind the joint theatre production companies responsible, besides running a major role-playing national organisation that “offers dramatic solutions”.
Busy people who evidently know their business.