Hull Truck Theatre's first night on tour to Scarborough with John Godber's new ‘comedy thriller’ was a challenging experience. The state-of-the-art technology at the Stephen Joseph Theatre proved sclerotic, so the entire production and its audience had to march a quarter of a mile down the road to the former Stephen Joseph Theatre, hand built by Ayckbourn and his crew 28 years ago and abandoned by them eight years ago. Now in the hands of a local college, it was fortunately well able to cope.
There are challenges for the audience, too, not least to normal eardrums which are assaulted to the level of real physical pain by a massive plethora of screaming, shouting and retching throughout this production. And then there is the ever-present challenge of wondering what on earth Godber thought he was doing.
The tritest of dramatic situations - married man arrives at hotel for dirty weekend with another man's wife - is lightly tricked out with chat about a haunted room and hotel staff trying rather too hard to be a bit sinister. The man and woman, who are - well, we don't know what they are or who they are, since neither is invested with a scintilla of character - are supposedly at Bagley Hall to participate in a murder mystery weekend. Alas, they never make it, because her (abusive) husband turns out to be in the same hotel to make the Best Man speech at a wedding reception.
Thus they are confined to their room to confront their ghosts - internal ghosts, naturally, as per H G Wells's Red Room or last year's Ayckbourn play Snake in the Grass - and finally to enact a genuine murder as unconvincing as any ever staged.
It would be uncharitable to name check any of the actors in this sad farrago. All have done far better work for Hull Truck and will doubtless impress again.
The complete inconsequentiality of the piece suggested briefly a reversion to the absurdism of the 1950s and 1960s, but Godber cannot call on either the wit or the Gothic menace of Ionesco. It would be best, probably, just to write it all off as experience and move on to better things.
- Ian Watson (reviewed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough)