Mustard Theatre Company return on Tuesday 28 September with the thriller Wait Until Dark, written by Frederick Knott, the author of Dial M for Murder.
A trio of thugs looking for a mysterious doll visit the apartment of blind housewife Susy Henderson, whose husband may be involved in murder.
Realising the doll could prove his innocence, she knows her only chance is change the rules of the deadly game of cat and mouse that follows as night falls.
We spoke to director Steven Phipps.
Q: Fans of Frederick Knott will be familiar with the play. Have you changed or updated it anyway or have you taken the view “if it’s not broke, why fix it”?
To be honest, I’ve always believed there has been an issue with the portrayal of the “con” and it might be a bit broke, as you say, in places.
Some audiences were said to be confused by the trajectory of the scam or con.
We believe we know where those problems lie. There are also a few glitches and loose ends in the story. So, we believe we have ironed these out.
We will also be addressing the behaviours of the characters in a slightly different way from what we’ve seen. We are setting our play as the original play was set in 1966/67.
Q: Wait Until Dark and Dial M aside, Knott didn’t seem to enjoy much other success?
I believe he managed to enjoy a good living from what he had already written. His family were wealthy and according to his wife she “didn’t think the drive was there any more”.
He was happy to live comfortably. Theatres did well and several actors gained awards for their work. I suppose it depends how you measure success.
Q: Tell me about the challenges involved in staging the play?
Complex timing, deception and the dark. Many technical and practical things to make function. Large set. All of this is about as hard as you can make it for a touring company. Oh yes, weapons and violence.
Q: There needs to be a lot of trust between the actress playing Susy and chief thug Harry?
Yes. That is true in any acting partnership and physical collaboration. Above all, they have to trust me as director. It has to be built, nurtured and valued.
Q: What kind of audiences do you think will enjoy Wait Until Dark?
Fans of Frederick Knott. Fans of Audrey Hepburn (who starred in the 1967 adaptation). Anyone who has seen the film and didn’t realise that it originated in the West End with Honor Blackman as Susy.
People of a certain age who were scared witless when they first saw it. People who were thrown into each other’s arms on the back row of the cinema at the scary bits.
Q: Why should audiences come to see Wait Until Dark?
It is cited high up in the top 100 most suspenseful plays. Perhaps they should come and see if we can pull it off!
Q: How much are you enjoying being back on the road, entertaining audiences?
We will see. We start our run tonight. This has been a lot of work. We had to put it on ice at first lockdown and bring it back now.
Everything has changed, much more consideration is required in any close collaboration now.
I hope that people really have missed theatre and haven’t been sucked into the lazy world of TV and really do come out and see our work.
Q: What has Mustard Theatre got planned next?
A Girl on a Train.
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