The Monkey's Paw
The Horrible Thing in the Garden
Christ Church, New London Road, Chelmsford
Thursday 9th February 2012
A warm welcome greeted the impressively decent-sized audience, considering the snow flurries outside, at Christ Church this week.
The evening began with The Monkey's Paw, a spooky tale about a remote family being visited by a Sergeant-Major friend, who bestows on them a cursed talisman in the shape of a monkey's paw. The paw is said to grant the holder any three wishes, although the family are warned that the granting of those wishes comes at a terrible price. Of course, the family wish anyway, with horrific results.
Father and Mother, Mr & Mrs White, (Syd Smith & Julie Lissamore) were played with subtlety and emotion. Mrs White's distress when discovering the ill-fate that their wish had brought them was very dramatic. Their son Herbert (Richard Langley) was played with jovility, creating a pleasant juxtaposition to the later scenes. Geoff Hadley as the mysterious, gruff-voiced Sergeant-Major was excellent in a brief role, bringing a real gravitas when delivering the exposition of the plot. The final visit from Mr Sampson (Les Leeds) delivered the climactic final result that fate had dealt the family.
The second half brightened the atmosphere, whole new cast, minor changes to the set, with The Horrible Thing in the Garden. A black comedy centred around Miss Violet Throstle (Helen Langley) and her sister Miss Rose Throstle (Angela Gee). About to settle down to afternoon tea, their peace is shattered by Rose's discovery of a "horrible thing" under the rhododendrons. Suspicions reign, not least of their morbid (cleaner? maid? housekeeper?) Mrs Honeybun (Joan Lanario), with her delight at horror novels. The denouemont is finally revealed by Mrs Honeybun's sensible daughter Marlena (Leila Francis), of course a scarecrow all along. A stronger overall cast than Act 1, or perhaps just more at home in Phoenix's comedy comfort zone, all these talented actresses created a frantic and funny end to the evening.