NODA Review – The Hollow

NODARepresentative, Pauline Surrey, reviews the recent production of The Hollow by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us). “Originally produced in 1951 this play was a great success, running at the Ambassadors Theatre for 11 months.  The full house at the Nomad Theatre still proves the draw of an Agatha Christie play, and the whoops of celebration from the audience at the final curtain would encourage any society to include whodunits regularly in their repertoire! East Horsley is very lucky indeed to have this fine theatre, with its roomy, raked seating. Recently a spacious bar was added (the very cosy, rather tiny bar was demolished), and with each visit I make, this bar is becoming cosier, as past production posters etc are added. There was a fine 1950s set, of a typical drawing room with well-equipped drinks trolley, and outdoor views through the French windows and from the balcony. A fine painting of the rather important family home ‘Dear Ainswick’ hung over the mantelpiece. A fine lobster made its appearance too!  Lighting was very effective throughout, and there was an impressive thunderstorm. Costumes were of the period and added to the nostalgic atmosphere created. The first thing needed in a good Agatha Christie story is fine characterisation, as the twists and turns of the plot demand that one can envisage many, if not all, of the characters as the murderer, and yet of course never be certain until the final 5 minutes! Thus in this Nomad version, we had the bumbly and kindly Sir Henry Angkatell (Graham Botterill) covering over his wife’s forgetfulness and seemingly increasing dottiness with both fortitude and a solicitous attitude. Lady Lucy (Judy Kelly) was the provider of the humour in the piece, as she seemed far more concerned about menus and food being served hot or cold, than about a corpse in her living room! A believable couple these two, well played. Cousin Henrietta Angkatell (Moyra Brookes), the resident sculptress, wandered languidly about, obviously longing for the arrival of her lover, the doctor John Christow. And yet she acted as though she was really fond of his dull wife Gerda, taking steps to ensure that Gerda felt at ease during the weekend ahead, which for this shy wife was bound to be a miserable one, as she felt socially and intellectually inferior to the rest of her party. Was this genuine concern on the part of Henrietta, we wondered? A breath of fresh air was provided by the arrival from London of cousin Midge Harvey (Helen Teasdale), young, lively and attractive. She was keen on the nice but dim nephew of Sir Henry, Edward Angkatell, (Daniel Shepherd), the young man who had inherited ‘Dear Ainswick’, and who, in the eyes of Lady Lucy, needed to be married off in order to provide an heir.  Daniel Shepherd played this hapless character rather well and really looked the part in his country tweeds. He pined deliciously for Henrietta, whose affections were of course directed elsewhere.  And so the plot builds, motives are sewn, right at the start of the play and throughout Act I. Good performances from all ensured we understood where we were. Nevertheless, I do feel that more attention could have been paid to pace, as delivery seemed rather plodding at times. This is a long play, at 3 hours, at the best of times, and I felt that the Nomads might have made it a bit snappier than they did, as it overran by 20 minutes. Anyway, after the big build-up of expectation as to this unequal couple, (and oddly somewhat unwelcome guests) the Christows, they finally arrived. The doctor, John Christow, was played with suave arrogance by Michael Ayres. His wife, the intellectually challenged and socially inept Gerda, all nervous handbag-clutching and finger fiddling, was played to perfection by Nikky Kirkup, a very fine performance indeed. The sudden and unexpected arrival of the film star Veronica Craye, so so glamorous in red, cool, sophisticated and sassy, ostensibly seeking to borrow some matches, put the cat among the pigeons. Impeccably played by Suzanne Doherty with great relish, it must have been fun to do! One cameo role I was impressed with was the maid Doris. Ellie Sayer brought this role to life, with a great sense of comic timing, and very believable. This young maid had exactly the right amount of deference, clumsiness, nosiness and humour, and Ellie provided some light relief which was very welcome. This Agatha Christie piece is structurally unusual, in that not much happens until well into Act II, and one asks oneself whether all that dialogue in Act I is really necessary. A few cuts would not have detracted from the laying of the plot and development of the characters. Nevertheless, the good cast made the best of it, and the audience certainly appreciated it, working hard to follow the clues and red herrings, and the last 5 minutes were truly exciting and astounding. There was rousing applause as the curtain fell.” Pauline Surrey – NODA Representative The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.

Leave a Comment