Thursday, 19 April 2018

19/04/18: Widdershins, Finchley Methodist Church Hall

I have seen many productions by the Guild Players, and this was probably the strongest. Written by Don Nigro and directed by Louisa Agamemnos, Widdershins is an expertly performed mystery thriller. It sustains a sense of tension and genuine drama throughout.

The premise is convincingly spooky: two inspectors are sent to a house to investigate the sudden disappearance of a family. A husband, wife and two daughters have simply vanished. Police inquiries reveal that there are sinister matters afoot: tales of shadows and light, superstition and druids. And the word in the play’s title – often repeated by the characters, like a mantra, with creepy insistence – is the key that unlocks a secret world of ambiguity.

The clever direction allows the disappeared to walk around the stage and interject in conversations – as memories or perhaps as ghosts. James English, the head of the family, is an eccentric writer fascinated by the occult. Fully engaged in this role – almost possessed by it – Sean Roberts delivers a superb, freewheeling monologue in the first act. This compelling sequence is one of the major highlights of the show.

As the narrative unfolded and the mystery deepened, it seemed impossible that it could be elegantly resolved without resorting to a cheap gimmick or an overly convenient solution. It was a pleasant surprise, then, that the conclusion was so satisfying. There were moments of occasional humour to lighten the intensity, but overall this was a dark and thought-provoking work that probed deep into the nature of perception and reality.

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