site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Watermill Theatre - Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow

1st to 12th July 2014 and on tour.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

This is no ordinary case

Watermill touring takes hardboiled gumshoe Sam Shadow to rural audiences

Watermill Touring: Hardboiled, at Highclere Village Hall, on Saturday, June 21, touring to village halls and arts centres to June 28

Hardboiled is the co-creation of Rhum and Clay Theatre Company and the Watermill outreach director Beth Flintoff. It is currently touring various village halls in the area before a short run at the theatre itself.

The audience is in no doubt straight away which era we are in - this is 1940s LA, the home of private detectives, femme fatales, dodgy policemen and a host of other caricatures. The moody lighting, shutter over the glass door and hand-held smoke machine all add to the atmosphere, while the four actors on stage hold the audience spellbound as the action flows seamlessly from one scene to the next.

We are transported back to the black-and-white world of cynicism and double dealing as seemingly naive PI Sam Shadow falls under the enigmatic spell of the mysterious Scarlet Addison and tries to unravel what has happened to her secret lover.

The staging is brilliant, as you forget you are sitting in a village hall when watching Sam driving through the dingy streets of LA with his hat steering the way, and two torches creating the dipped headlights. This is just one of many effective and clever ways the company creates the scenes. All four actors are on stage at all times, either holding props or moving the scenery to turn the doorway into a sleazy bar, or the underside of a table into a phone booth.

Julian Spooner as Sam Shadow cleverly holds the whole thing together, going from young, gullible innocent to just as cynical and hard-boiled as the rest of the characters. Jess Mabel Jones as Scarlet is more than a match for him and she transforms herself into character with just a fur stole around her shoulders; her first entrance, when she 'floats' into Sam's office is especially entertaining. Mabel Jones, along with Christopher Elwood and Matthew Wells, also plays the rest of the supporting cast. Occasionally accents would slip or a rushed cue would slightly jar but these are minor quibbles.

Overall, it is a very slick production and the Highclere audience was enthralled as the play reached its inevitable conclusion. In the programme notes, Beth Flintoff explains that the idea was to pay homage to the classic crime films of the 40s and 50s, while using a modern story which suited the mood (the plot is loosely based on the Enron scandal of the 1990s when the company deliberately caused blackouts in California in order to boost share prices), showing that perhaps not much has changed.

Last year the Watermill's touring productions were seen by more than 30,000 people; if you get a chance to catch Hardboiled at a village hall near you, I would definitely recommend it.