Devonshire Park Theatre: 22-26 July 2014
Playwright Merlin Ward’s chiller The Widow premiered at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre last night. The Widow is a brand new play in the gothic genre, set in contemporary Britain. It has a classic blend of the occult, the dark, the haunting and the sinister, which are brought up to date by the modern characters and setting.
It’s not easy to present this kind of occult thriller on stage, as we’ve become so used to the technical wizardry of film – and I feel this story could make a good film, similar to the way The Blair Witch Project brought the genre up to date several years ago.
But with the help of a striking gothic set, spooky sound effects and excellent use of lighting, the play pulled it off. Anita Dobson plays a characteristically underhand house maid with dead-pan accuracy amid strong acting from all the cast.
One of the play’s greatest successes was in playing to the strengths of what theatre is all about, and what the Devonshire Park can offer in particular: the thrill of live performance in front if an audience inside a real Victorian theatre. Darkness was used to great effect in the play, and it was in those unnerving edges of blackness that the theatre itself seemed to lend its own long-accumulated eeriness, swallowing everything up and beckoning you to wonder, what if..?