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The Small Hand at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 8th Oct 2014 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

The Small Hand - cast.jpg

Even before the curtain went up we were shaking in our seats - literally - as the whole theatre throbbed with the first of Dan Samson’s many thrilling sound effects.

Susan Hill’s latest tale of terror to be adapted for the stage has been greatly anticipated, and it doesn’t disappoint.

For me, nothing can match the sheer horror that is The Woman in Black (the stage version not the film!) but The Small Hand has a lot to commend it.

Presented in a similar way to The Woman in Black, with the actors narrating in between scenes, this adaptation by the hugely talented Clive Francis tells the story of an art dealer who is drawn to a dilapidated Edwardian house where the sensation of being gripped by a small hand begins a nightmarish tale which I won’t divulge so as not to spoil the fun.

As the art dealer Adam Snow, Andrew Lancel is a far cry from British Soap Awards’ Villain of the Year as Carla Connor’s violent boyfriend Frank Foster in Coronation Street. His fear is palpable and his anguish had me filling up with emotion.

Lancel is very well supported by Diane Keen and Robert Duncan in a variety of roles, showcasing their versatility, with Keen playing everything from an American art dealer to a Scottish housekeeper, and Duncan drawing us in as Snow’s troubled brother while also playing an assortment of eccentrics. Though, on the first night of this national tour, he may have been trying a little too hard as his expressive voice rose and fell to such an extent that we couldn’t always hear what he was saying. As the Scottish laird he also ought to lose the shotgun. He wasn’t dressed for shooting and I doubt he would bring a shotgun into his drawing room and place it on his highly polished table. It serves no purpose but to give the scene authenticity, which it doesn’t

Inevitably, there is a ghost and I do worry for six-year-old Charlie Ward who plays him. With such eerie sound effects, Gary Hickeson’s atmospheric music and Lancel’s harrowing performance, I wonder he isn’t traumatised, and yet he played his part perfectly, with a stillness which must be so alien to one so young!

As in The Woman in Black, the set is sparse, but Nina Dunn’s back projection is stunning. The way one scene washes over the next and windows expand and contract is almost nightmarish in itself and adds a lot to the atmosphere.

Roy Marsden’s direction keeps the tension bubbling below the surface throughout the evening and once the production settles in I’m sure it will be even more enjoyable.

The Small Hand continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Oct 18 and then tours:

Oct 20-25: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Oct 27-Nov 1: Grand Opera House, York

Nov 3-8 Theatre Royal, Brighton

Nov 10-15: Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

Nov 17-22: Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. You can feel the tension in your review! Sounds great.
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