Theatre Royal Windsor (venue)
03 March 2020 (released)
05 March 2020
This dark brooding mystery has the audience spell bound as we follow the story through twists and turns to its unexpected dramatic finale.
True to its origin based on an early Charles Dickens tale written in 1836, this piece is a classic gothic horror. The pre-Victorian nineteenth century costumes, gloomy stage settings, the ominous soundtrack and the compelling narrative combine successfully to build tension and intrigue.
A young idealistic doctor, Stephen Ruggles (played by the dashing Christopher Brookes) is relaxing by his fire one evening when he receives a visit from a taciturn elderly lady, Ada Crawlings – performed by Dorkas Ashar (Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’). Her face is hidden behind the eponymous black veil and although she gives very little away, she conveys her desperation and pleads for his help. In his willingness to be of service, he throws caution to the wind and in doing whatever he can to help her, is taken on a perilous journey.
I enjoyed the cliff hanger device of finishing Act 1 with a dramatic teeter that is picked up and continued at the start of Act 2. It’s reminiscent of the way Dickens’ works were serialised in newspapers so each episode had to keep the readers hungry for more.
As we are drawn into the depths of the tale, we meet more characters. John Goodrum is convincingly threatening as Luke Gunford. Sarah Wynne Kordas is powerfully persuasive as Carla Blackstock. Nothing is as it first seems, we are frequently blind-sided by smoke and mirror disguises leading to character transformations and sudden revelations.
The tightly drawn plot is driven by the strong story telling skills of this small group of actors. Through their words, we weave our way from an idyllic past in genteel Derbyshire descending into London’s grimy, crime-ridden Limehouse. We hear plaintive histories of youthful passion, lost love, disappointment and the mad world of grief and heartbreak. We’re shown the contrast between the comfort of middle class security and the uncertainty of society’s underbelly.
Although there is much to make this drama feel recognisably Dickensian, it’s not as thought-provoking or emotionally fulfilling as some of his better known works.
Nevertheless, it works well as an engaging piece of theatre and keeps us hooked with interesting characters spinning an exciting yarn.
Rumpus Theatre Company are taking this production on tour, it’s in Windsor until Sat 7th March. Go and see it and enjoy a thrilling night out.