Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Governess

The Governess 
Darlington Civic Theatre 

The Governess, written by Patrick Hamilton (of Gaslight fame) is a recently rediscovered psychological thriller.

The main character, Detective Inspector Rough (played here by the inimitable Peter Bowles), features in both tales (this one is set before Gaslight).

The basic plot concerns a missing child. Murdered or abducted? We don’t know until the final scene. That there is a sinister side to the governess (a convincing Jenny Seagrove) is not in question; she is seen to treat her pupil cruelly very early on. For the rest of the first act, she appears to be perfectly well. What dark secret does she hold, and is she acting alone?

Inspector Rough’s appearance is held back until the latter part of the first act. When he does appear, he enjoys the wittiest of lines and is brought to life by a sparkling performance from the ever-reliable Peter Bowles (incidentally, I can recommend his autobiography, Ask Me If I'm Happy as a good read).

The best parts of the play come in the second act, with Peter Bowles, Jenny Seagrove and Colin Buchanan sharing excellent three-handed scenes on the way to the denouement.

Intriguingly, director Roy Marsden could only locate an incomplete version of the play, but in his notes he hints that the full version may still exist somewhere in the British Library. Perhaps one day it will be found; meanwhile, we should be grateful for the efforts taken to resurrect this forgotten gem.

For the tour dates, please head for this page.

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