House Guest - performed September 1986

By Francis Durbridge

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Val Taylor


(in order of appearance)

Vivien Norwood Sue Monaghan
Jane Mercer Gillian Riley
Stella Drury Marion Harvey
Robert Drury Jerry Eldridge
Crozier Allan Beckels
Inspector Burford Dave Turrell
Sergeant Clayton Adrian Bolton
Dorothy Medway Hilda Breckels
Philip Henderson Eddie R G Jerryl

Production Team

Dennis Murfitt, Viv Wheatley, David Warner, Jenny Rollings, Michael Monaghan, Jimmy Brotherton, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Greg Garrod, Geoffrey Taylor, Jenny Baker, Tracy Amos, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

This exciting thriller concerns Robert and Stella who learn that their son has been kidnapped - not for ransom but in order that they will allow one of the kidnappers safe haven in their house. Two policemen arrive with news that one of the kidnappers has been murdered - but very soon it is obvious that these two, and much else, is not as it seems.


Typical of Francis Durbridge’s work, this bloodier-than-average thriller is packed with convoluted twists which carry enough surprises for a ten-part television serial. A kidnapped child, distraught parents, assorted villains and a quirky plot well armoured with lethal weapons and the inevitable drinks trolley make for notable tension and Val Taylor’s nicely-set production builds the atmosphere of fear and frustration with good variation of pace and some useful performances. Chief among these is Marion Harvey as Stella Drury. Initial poise and presence gradually give way to corroding concern for the fate of her abducted son and the playing scarcely puts a dainty foot wrong throughout her long travail. She is well matched by Jerry Eldridge as her film star husband Robert, who subsequently adopts a convincing Australian accent to bring us his look-alike alter-ego Philip Henderson. Equally credible in both parts, the characterisations compel attention with their forceful but not overstated attack.
Allen Breckels is smoothly nasty as the elderly Major Crozier and Dave Turrell and Adrian Bolton are a thoroughly purposeful pair of more obviously violent criminals.
Hilda Breckels is briefly eccentric as Cousin Dorothy and Sue Monaghan’s carefully deliberate Vivien Norwood contains a certain menace as the enigmatic journalist; Gillian Riley makes something out of the non-part of the loyal secretary Jane Mercer.

There is a very nice line in mood music to underline and emphasise the flavour of the play but the movement and positioning is often near-static with conversations sometimes going on across actors’ back by virtue of awkward grouping which causes masking even when only a few people are on stage at the given time. Nonetheless the overall impact of the presentation clearly impressed its audience and even a notorious thriller non aficionado like myself had to admit to being gripped with shock from time to tome.
Jimmy James

If conclusions can be reached for rehearsals, then Manningtree’s Manifest Theatre Group’s latest production was certainly “all right on the night”. The cast of eight, production team of 14 and al the other enthusiastic members who have helped with the latest production – Francis Durbridge’s thriller House Guest – staged a highly polished rehearsal, and the play has been showing since Monday. I was wonderfully impressed when I went along to rehearsal night to see behind the scenes at the group’s own theatre in Oxford Road, Manningtree. Talent, enthusiasm and sheer hard work has made the Manifest Theatre Group an exciting and extremely “professional” band of entertainers.
First impressions, I feel, tend to be accurate, and mine were full of admiration for the 300 or so members of this amateur dramatic society. With their 25th production and the first play of the 1986-87 season, the members have had something to be proud of since their humble beginnings of 1979.
So how did this successful group start?
A group of enthusiastic people, with a love of acting who had already showed their talents in various towns and villages in the county, put their heads together and decided to form their own team. “We decided there was a need for a drama group in this area – we found there was a gap to be filled,” explained Bruce Emeny, a founder member and the group’s lighting designer.
From the early days, and those 16 enthusiastic members who each put down a pound to provide the new venture with funds, the group has grown. It is now what can be termed a fully self-sufficient and self-supporting theatre company, although not one person is a professional actor.

The Manifest group is unusual in that it proudly boasts its own theatre. The cosy 19th century building, the one-time Wesley school, is itself a delight, and from outside an aura of Young England still clings to it. The theatre house was bought in 1985 at a cost of £35,000. The members had already raised £14,000 towards the cost – quite a remarkable sum for an amateur dramatic society to have raised in seven years. The members managed to completely refurbish the building without any outside help. And in just a few months the group was ready to stage its first play in its new home. This sense of unity and working together must surely be the reason for such success for the group. Everyone gets involved as much as possible in the production as well as the fund-raising, said Mr Emeny. Each production raises approximately £1,000. It usually takes eight weeks from the first auditions to the final performance. Anyone is invited to audition for parts, but everyone is expected to become a member and pay an annual subscription of £3 to help boost funds. House Guest, which is running from September 8-13, is a play for four men and four women. It is set in the home of Robert and Stella Drury, who learn that their young son has been kidnapped. The play is produced by Val Taylor, her first time in this role with the Manifest group. The residential producer, Dennis Murfitt, is executive producer.

Manningtree’s ever popular Manifest Theatre Group can again congratulate itself on a very successful first night of its latest production, House Guest, a thriller by Francis Durbridge. Both production team and cast of Monday’s performance deserve another slap on the back for an enjoyable and thrilling evening’s entertainment.
It was a “first" all round for the production.
The first play of the 1986-87 season
The first time for Val Taylor as a producer and director of a Manifest production.
A first time as lead for Marion Harvey and Jerry Eldridge as Robert and Stella Drury, with the group.
And , in my opinion, a first-class performance
House Guest is a modern-day thriller which, at times, left the audience on the edge of their seats as twist followed twist to a quite ingenious conclusion. The dramatic soundtrack for Pink Floyd’s background music really added to the suspense. The action takes place in the home of the Drury’s who learned their son had been kidnapped. The set – a living room – was well designed and displayed a comfortable and tasteful atmosphere of this middle-class home. The unusual terms from one of the kidnappers, Major Crozier, splendidly played by Alan Breckels, is to allow him to stay in the house for 48 hours. Later, two other men arrived, supposedly police officers, and revealed the other kidnapper had been murdered and Robert is suspected.
But is soon become clear there men are not all they seem.
Dave Turrell as Burford carried the rough criminal image off well. His portrayal was comical as the script invited, but wholly believable. Adrian Bolton played Clayton, Burford’s muscle-man accomplice. His aggressive attitude easily turned the audience against him, and it was a very good performance. Both leading actors Robert and Stella Drury took to their roles as anguished and angry parents well. It was a particularly convincing performance from Marion Harvey as Stella, a despairing mother. Hilda Breckels who played a brisque inquisitive neighbour and cousin of Robert Drury, Dorothy Medway, had the audience chuckling.
And with Sue Monaghan as journalist Vivienne Norwood, who meets an untimely end, and Gillian Riley as a worried but efficient secretary, the eight-strong cast can be proud of their performance.

Photo Shoot

If you have any photos from this production, then please let us know.

Allan, Dave, Marion, Jerry