Theatre review: Darker Shoes

Posted on: 21 December 2009 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews the new Victorian ghost story by Michael Punter at the Hampstead Theatre.

Ghost stories have always been a traditional part of the festive season but of late there has been a dearth of them in the theatre, cinema or on television.

This situation has now been rectified with the première of a new Victorian ghost story by Michael Punter entitled Darker Shores at the Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage.

It is Christmas 1875. Professor Gabriel Stokes retreats to The Sea House, an old childhood haunt on the desolate Sussex coast. No sooner has he arrived than his peace is disturbed by mysterious goings on. He enlists the help of an American spiritualist, Tim Beauregard, whose memories of the Civil War still haunt him. Together the two embark on a terrifyingly journey to discover the true history of the house, whose former owner, a missionary, mysteriously disappeared.

What this gripping and shadowy tale lacks in originality it makes up for in director Anthony Clark’s marvellously convincing staging - a deathlike apparition appears at the window, tables the window. Indeed full marks must go to Paul Farnworth for his atmospheric and stylish set.

Finer performances from Tom Goodman-Hill as Professor Stokes, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Tom Beauregard, the troubled American spiritualist, Pamela Miles as the rather sinister housekeeper, Mrs Hinchcliffe, with quite a few secrets up her sleeve, and Vinette Robinson as Florence Kennedy, the housemaid cum spiritualist, add substance to this spooky drama.

An absorbing and chilling evening in the theatre!

By Laurence Green

Where: Hampstead Theatre

When: plays until 16 January 2010

Box Office: 020 7722 9301

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