On a cold windy night, in an old converted church – there could not have been a more perfect setting for a performance of Agathie Christie’s “The Hollow”. The Genesian Theatre has a real ambience – an old world charm which was promoted by the friendly Front of House team and the small, intimate atmosphere of the theatre.
The Hollow is a classic “country house mystery”, based on the 1946 novel of the same name. The director, Molly Haddon, chose to set the story in 1955, and she clearly did her research to create a true snapshot of post war England. The pre-show and interval music really added to the vibe.
As the curtain opened, I was immediately struck by the set. Well designed and constructed, it was functional, and suited the space perfectly – Molly Haddon, Tom Fahy and the construction team need to be commended on their choice of colour, furnishings, props and overall attention to detail. I was instantly transported back in time to an English country manor, just outside London.
The 1950s aesthetic was also well supported by the attractive costumes designed by Susan Carveth. She did a wonderful job selecting the styles to match each individual character, and with interchangeable pieces to enable quick changes. I also liked the particular attention paid to the ladies’ hairstyles.
The play was very well cast, with strong performances from the whole ensemble. Jess Davis and Cariad Weitnauer were brilliant in their roles as Henrietta and Midge - both were very engaging with good stage presence. I really enjoyed the characterisations of Emily Smith as the highly-strung Gerda; Penny Day as the absent-minded Lady Lucy; and Emily Saint Smith as the long-suffering housekeeper, Mrs Gudgeon (who made the transitions very entertaining as she set the props for the next scene). Other solid performances were given by Vincent O’Neill (as Sir Henry), Thomas Southwell (as Edward) and Natalie Reid (as Sergeant Penny). I’d like to give a special mention to Alannah Robertson who deftly switched between the two (very different) characters of Veronica and Doris; and Chad Traupmann who played both Dr Christow and Inspector Colquhoun masterfully. The actors kept the pace throughout, even when the fireworks at nearby Darling Harbour produced distracting background noise - they did not miss a beat, which is to their credit.
As with most Christie “who-dun-its”, there were convoluted story lines and character relationships, and lots of exposition through the dialogue. The cast really brought the script to life through their delivery and characterisations, making it very easy for the audience to know “who was who” and understand their motivations. I was drawn into the story straight away, watching for those subtle nuances that provided me with little clues as I tried to solve the mystery. And just when I thought I had worked it all out, there was another unexpected twist. I was very intrigued by that bottle of poison – was it a potential murder weapon, or just a red herring?
Needless to say, all my questions were eventually answered. I’m certainly not going to reveal the who, the how and the why, but I strongly suggest you get along to the Genesian for an absorbing and enjoyable night of theatre. Molly Haddon and her team did a great job on this piece. I give the show 4 out of 5 loaded pistols