Esk Valley Theatre

Glaisdale, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK

Dangerous Obsession



August 2011 by Kevin Berry

An evening spent at an Esk Valley Theatre show is now as essential a part of a holiday in this part of Yorkshire as a ride on the valley's steam railway or fish and chips in nearby Whitby. Locals too welcome quality theatre on their doorstep. They know a good thing up here.

This year's summertime treat is a revival of an NJ Crisp classic from the eighties. This is the type of thriller that will always go down well with holiday audiences but EVT's production stands out. It boasts exceptional acting and a superbly unsettling atmosphere

The pivotal character is Barrett who ingratiates his way into the home of the Driscolls, a couple with a colour supplement lifestyle. Andrew Whitehead, always a fine actor, plays Barrett with an inspired, Dickensian creepiness. When he has to create danger, he does. Just like that. He makes this production special.

Mark Stratton's direction tightens and tones the tension with excellent pacing and ensures the best possible reactions to the plot's twists and turns. James Hirst and Amy Ewbank are well cast as the Driscolls. Hirst shows no sign of recognising the dilemma he is in until he absolutely has to. Ewbank is convincingly foolish and then convincingly frightened.

All of that and a colourful conservatory set, from regular designer Pip Leckenby, that stops audiences in their tracks as they enter. This production will be referred to in glowing terms in many holiday postcards and over many B&B breakfast tables.

The Whitby Gazette

August 2011 by Emily Thwaite

I am a new member of this community and experienced the warm welcome at Glaisdale's Robinson Institute, the 100-year-old centre that is transformed into a theatre during August. Decorative lights beckon and there is even a bar available, rain or shine.

Inside, a wonderfully absorbing play is revealed. This is real, 'grown-up' theatre, in the sense that it is clever, surprising and rewarding. There is wit without cheap laughs and language with serious weight. And you really want to know what happens next. The pace of this production is exquisite, drawing you in so that you listen carefully, intrigued by every development.

Fate, truth and revenge are all explored here - how might we behave in extreme circumstances?

All three characters are drawn almost painfully truthfully, with their inner lives unravelling in front of us.

Amy Ewbank portrays the multi-layered character of Sally Driscoll, who is often holding back insight and instinct, with superb subtlety.

James Hirst as Mark Driscoll exposes the character's unpeeling rawness most convincingly, particularly shocking and affecting in his sudden outburst of anger.

Andrew Whitehead as intruder John Barrett plays out his 'dangerous obsession' as compulsive viewing, perverting the attributes of trust and perseverance, making them far from dull. His careful, measured choice of words demonstrates his obsessively precise interpretation of the world. But, as he says: "There is a touch of madness in all of us".

By the end of the play, so much that has gone before strikes you as significant, actions, words, even thoughts - this is an event that stays with you.

Go and see this - such excellent acting and realistic staging on your doorstep, a rare thing.