New Wolsey, Ipswich – until 11 December 2017
To be honest I was slightly daunted by the PR point that Karina Jones is the first blind actress in recent years to play Susy (hers was the Audrey Hepburn part in the 1967 Hitchcock film, based like Dial M for Murder on a stage play by Frederick Knott). Though disability casting is great, it felt a bit like special pleading. But Alistair Whatley’s Original Theatre Company tours some terrific work, so I went along and found myself wrong.
For Karina Jones is well worth seeing anywhere (she doubles as a circus-skills aerialist, by the way, clearly not a woman to be daunted by anything). And the credibility of her moves, negotiating with accustomed skill round the detailed basement-flat set, is obviously greater than most sighted actors could convey.
But more than that, she has a quality about her – a sort of valiant glamour – which absolutely matches the role of Suzy, beleaguered in her flat with her husband lured away, vulnerable but steely, grasping at straws of understanding while three con-men manoeuvre through the doll-cocaine-smuggling-hospital-double-dealing-telephone-call intricacy of Knott’s plot. She’s wonderful.
Well supported, too. Shannon Rewcroft is the Awful Child Gloria who helps out with shopping (she becomes vital in the second act, very funny and spookily convincing as an 11-year-old) . And the criminals are good. In particular Tim Treloar as Roat, the murderous one, exudes an excellent suave nastiness, and Jack Ellis hs a credible helplessness as the supposedly friendly one, while he and Graeme Brookes’ Croker try to work well outside their smalltime comfort zone under the evil Roat.
The plot could become a little tiresome, were it not that our focus is so strongly on Karina Jones: a modern feminist sensitivity applauds her brilliance in gaining advantage by disabling all the lights (total darkness, of which Ipswich was sternly warned, no leaving your seat). So I got a bit irritable when Roat seemed to be getting the upper hand by mere boring old-fashioned Hitchcock violence.
But it did the business, got both gasps and the odd whimper from a keen audience, and is altogether one of the classiest of thrillers, neatly done. And I want more of Karina Jones.