Veronica's Room

Date 11th May 2019
Society Westovian Theatre Society
Venue Pier Pavillion South Shields
Type of Production Play
Director Peter Dawson

Report

Author: Gordon Richardson

A story touching on subjects such as incest and necrophilia may not seem a ‘good night out’ but the play by the pen of Ira Levin (author of Rosemary’s Baby) was just that – a superb, thought provoking and edge of the seat thriller that left the audience mesmerised.

To name the cast is to give away the plot and traditionally the four cast members are simply known in any programme as Man (M), Woman (W), Girl (G) and Young Man (YM). Suffice to say that the play is set supposedly over two time periods – the first act is 1973 where the Irish couple M and W welcome G and YM from Ohio (who have only recently started dating) to their home near Boston. M and W having taken over the care of an elderly dementated woman Cissie who is end stage cancer and wishes to reconcile with her sister Veronica of which G bears an uncanny resemblance to. Reluctantly agreeing to dress as the 1935 ‘Veronica’ to meet with Cissie G is left alone in Veronica’s old room.
The second act finds G confused as M and W return looking much younger and talking in Boston accents trying to convince G they are her parents from 1935. G rebels and insists on meeting YM who appears as the 1935 family doctor. Eventually under relentless pressure G accepts she is Veronica from 1935 and the conclusion of the play is intense and shocking.

The set, a 1935’s bedroom, was authentic looking (as all Westovian sets are) and well dressed in period piece props. Costumes were equally authentic and accentuated the vulnerability of G. Sound and lighting were excellent with sufficient lighting to see the action but atmospheric enough to reinforce the sinister plot.

M and W were played by Jim Barton and Hannah Potter who individually and collectively showed their versatility as actors with many personalities and accents and their stage movement was also superb from the somewhat stilted movement of their more elderly first act characters to the forceful and confident second act personas.

YM was played by Declan Marshall and once again the transformation from uptight, cynical American lawyer in act 1 to cold blooded sexual predator ‘doctor’ in the second act was a joy to behold. G was played by Katie Stubbs who looked every inch the somewhat naïve and overly trusting young university student before transforming, whether mentally or patronising, into ‘Veronica’ at the conclusion.

Like all magnificent drama it relies on the vision and collaborative acumen of the director, and in Peter (a fine actor in his own right) he allowed the actors the right amount of leeway to interpret their own characters. It is often said in theatrical circles that actors have to ‘earn’ the right to their ‘silences’ – one of the most difficult skills, and the most embarrassing for an audience point of view, is ‘silence’ where the actors react in silence and act via their demeanours – Near the conclusion of this play there was total silence on stage (and in the audience) at the horrific and shocking event that had just taken place for almost a minute – no movement, no words simply letting the action seep into the audience’s psyche. Theatrical genius – Massive well done Westovians and the cast of Veronica’s Room