Still The Beating of My Heart (tour – Long Melford)
East Anglia produces more than plump livestock and arable crops. It generates theatre companies.
Hallowe'en looms in the not-too-distant future; it's an appropriate time for Theatrical Niche to launch its autumn tour of five Victorian ghost stories. This new company – it's been around for less than two years – uses music and movement to some effect.
Of the five tales which make up Still The Beating of My Heart programme, three work better than the others. They are the classic "Be careful what you wish for" story by WW Jacobs The Monkey's Paw, Mary E Braddon's depiction of female fidelity and revenge in The Cold Embrace and that grand-daddy of the genre The Raven, Edgar Allan's deceptively simple poem with its "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore'" refrain.
Bram Stoker was a master of the sinister, and it glows throughout The Judge's House. And, if you're superstitious, then you already know you should avoid days, houses or rooms with Number 13 in their title such as the story by MR James. Adaptations are by Alice Knapton (director) and company founder Venetia Twigg.
Amy Lawrence's swirling choreography for The Cold Embrace suits the Italian setting and the importance of the serpent ring given by the faithless lover to his intended bride. The Raven is recited with chilling simplicity and effectively lit by Nic Farman.
Three performers – Alice Sillett, Stuart Mortimer and Twigg – take all the parts. Sillett is particularly effective, switching easily from sinister to bonhomie in both sexes. Some of the cast-induced sound effects are good, notably the scrabble of the rat claws in The Judge's House, but the endless shifting of boxes, particularly in Number 13, distracts.
So too, at any rate for my money, did the envelope story of three actors having trouble with the technician's lighting cues. Its finale made some sense in this particular context but it is in need of considerable adjustment.
Still The Beating of My Heart tours nationally to 8 November.