Night Must Fall
Emlyn Williams
21 - 24 Jun 2016
J Chilvers

For their summer production, The Jubilee Players chose to revive Emlyn Williams’ 1930s psychological thriller ‘Night Must Fall’; it was a good choice.

It is an unusual thriller in that the outcome is anticipated in the Prologue when a stern voice-over – solemnly delivered by the Lord Chief Justice (Brian Lloyd) – confirms the death sentence for a heinous crime and, from an early stage in the piece, there is little doubt about ‘Who dunnit.’

Despite this, the tension is sustained through to the arrest of the murderer in the final scene by the interplay of the characters as they respond to events. For this to work effectively, each character must be played with great skill as they are drawn into a complex web of relationships which revolve around a cantankerous aunt, her frustrated niece and a sinister Welshman who has insinuated himself into their household. In different ways, all are manipulative but we are left in no doubt about who is really in control of the strings.

Cynthia Gosling (Mrs Bramson), Michelle Jay (Olivia Grayne) and Ray Tempesta (Dan) must be congratulated on their outstanding performances. The parts are meaty - of the kind that allows their full range of skills of voice, timing and movement to be employed – but, in the many extended scenes, all did full justice to their roles.

Moreover, for the play to ‘work’, it is equally important that the supporting roles are played with precision. As the main characters interweave, the pompous house guest (Paul Skippings), gossiping housekeeper (Sue Furness), scatty maid (Hannah Cunningham) and jolly district nurse (Sue Blackburn) not only provide a comic backdrop to the main plot but, through their reactions to the discovery of a dead body in the woods, bring the focus ever more closely on the oleaginous Dan, his past, his motives and his intentions.

The cast was completed by the persistent police inspector (Neil Phillips) whose repeated visits to the house draw concerned responses from all except Dan whose brazen self-belief begins to suggest a severely disordered personality. This is then further revealed in a powerful scene with Olivia in which he reveals that he is playing a role in which he is terrified by a "a pair of eyes staring at me”; the eyes are his own. The deepening relationship between the couple adds a further twist to the taut plot.

Libby Henshaw’s direction ensured subtle changes of pace, which are essential for events to unravel in a way that raises the tension to an ever higher level but when Dan commits his second murder, no one is surprised. Throughout, the audience ‘know’ what is going to happen and the quiet arrest of Dan comes as a relief to all, not least to Dan himself.

It is a demanding play to perform; many thanks to The Jubilee Players for a splendid evening’s entertainment.