House Guest - performed September 1986
By Francis Durbridge
Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French
Director - Val Taylor
Cast(in order of appearance)
Production TeamDennis 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 PlayThis 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.
ReviewsTypical 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.
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.
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.
Photo ShootIf you have any photos from this production, then please let us know.
Allan, Dave, Marion, Jerry