Sleep No More

by David Gillespie & Colin Wakefield; dir Helen Moscrop
Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
24 October – 3 November 2012

Sleep No More is an appropriately spooky ghost story for Halloween week. It is set in a theatre about to re-open after 60 years with a production of the same play, in which a child died, that got it closed down in the first place. The story progresses through the rehearsal period – with constant dire warnings that the play is cursed from director Micky’s father, who was involved in the previous, tragic production. It isn’t long before we are introduced to the ghost of the dead child, Eva. What takes a little longer is the revelation of the story of what happened last time, allowing the audience to piece it together bit by bit.

All set on a suitably bare set, representing the stage during rehearsals, the lighting altered to a low blue during the ghost scenes, setting an ethereal quality to those scenes. The difficulty with this were those scenes where the ghost is present in the background, which were normally lit. A difficult problem not surmounted, but as we all knew who the characters were by this time, not so important. Generally, the typically unreal atmosphere of a ghost story was well maintained – not quite the advertised ‘terrifying’, but probably better for it.

There were some very good performances from the cast. It was sometimes a little hidden, as they were playing a cast going from first exploration of a play to the finished article, and there was a definite and clear improvement in the performances in this play-within-a-play over the course of its development. I was particularly impressed with Ashleigh Dickinson, giving a very natural performance as Sal, the stage manager and first-time actor, and with David Eardley as director and theatre owner, Micky. The two children in the play were a surprise; Alex Morris as ghostly Eva and Sam Brown as ten-year-old Ben were excellent for their ages and performed and delivered lines much more convincingly and naturally than children of this age usually do. But that’s the pick of a generally good cast.

Altogether an enjoyable evening, leaving just that disturbing quality you expect from a ghost story. The appropriateness of the scheduling and some excellent performances improve its rating. Well done.

Millicent Short

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