The Mill at Sonning - The Hollow
7th July to 3rd September 2016.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Head to the Mill for a booming good thriller that's three-times Blessed
The Hollow, at The Mill at Sonning, until September 3
What do you get if you take an old-style 'who done it', mix in 12 good actors, a posh set and hire Brian Blessed as director? Answer: A good old-fashioned thriller where everything is stylised and made personal.
This fairly typical Agatha Christie thriller begins with Terrence Wilton as Sir Henry Angkatell, projecting his voice not just to the back of the stalls but to the back of the distant Oracle shopping centre, I shouldn't wonder.
Rosalind Blessed as Henrietta also came over very loud and clear – the first distinctive Brian Blessed touch. There was a very fine performance by Hildegard Neil as Lady Angkatell, her dizzy behaviour and eccentric actions carefully controlled, and Francesca Regis was impressive as the quiet, gentle Midge Harvey.
George Teller had a nice cameo as Gudgeon the butler and Angharad Berrow was similarly noticeable as the maid, Doris, in her first acting assignment since drama school.
Jason Riddington played baddie Dr Cristow, an obvious candidate to be murdered, with plenty of volume and dramatic gestures, which suggested another director-touch. Leanne Rowe's stylised entrance as movie star Veronica Craye had her come in, throw out her arms and stand, statuesque, in the doorway; Blessed touch number three?
Noel White as Inspector Colquhoun, often stood facing the audience where his facial contortions indicated the workings of his mind... yes, number four.
Emily Stride as Gerda and Alexander Neal as Edward also played it neatly but with sudden outbursts of volume on occasion... five. And how about the Inspector standing motionless and staring out at the audience during the second act interval? Six.
Oliver Ashworth, as the police sergeant, had less to do but did it well. And the doctor's death scene was, shall we say very noisy? Three Blesseds were involved here, Hildegard, daughter Rosalind and husband, director Brian, producing a cracking, old-fashioned-style thriller with plenty of personal touches to latch on to.
Easily the most restrained and ultimately natural performance was by Hildegard Neil who, I strongly suspect, said something like "I'll play it my way, Brian" before the rehearsals began.