Right on Halloween, I had the pleasure – or fright? – of watching the World War II ghost story The Evacuee at Chelsea Theatre. And what a spooky little play this is!
As we mentioned in our preview (The Evacuee at The Chelsea Theatre this autumn), the plot revolves around Janet, a young girl that’s been evacuated from London to the countryside who finds herself placed in the house of widower George Wilson; she’s mute since witnessing the death of of her brother in The Blitz. From her first night in her new house, unusual events start occurring, frightening her into waking from her sleep. On the subsequent days, we learn more about George’s past and the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death – at the same time, the creepy occurrences start increasing in number. Billeting officer Brenda is the third character, bringing Janet to George’s home; it transpires that George and Janet are childhood friends, and she herself is suffering from the strains of war with her husband’s sudden departure to fight in France. She acts as a go-between for Janet and George when the latter starts blaming the former for some of the unusual events – disturbed bedrooms, stolen letters – although is Janet really blameless?
I’ve never been to a horror play before, or indeed any play where I was warned about the loud noises and sudden movements at the box office! Indeed, I’m not really one for any kind of horror entertainment…but that’s not to say that I’m terrified of it. Far from it – bring it on, I say! So from the opening – where the audience was sat in the pitch dark, with an audio of World War II bombs falling being played – I tried to imagine what kind of spooky goings could take place. This was a small set – what sort of magic could they perform? But magic they did indeed perform – from pictures that fell off walls, to cupboard doors and drawers that opened randomly, to a music box that popped up and starting playing its tune. Even a chair – right at the front of the stage – moved by itself. I’d hazard a guess that some of the more eagle-eyed audience members might have seen how all this happened, but I’m happy to put it down to theatrical magic. But all of what I described so far falls into the “ooh, that’s creepy” category – there’s far more frightening things that occur which I won’t reveal here so I don’t spoil the surprise.
The Evacuee really builds in anticipation as the play develops – at the beginning, it’s hard to see where the horror-like goings on might occur. But build it does, rapidly so, until the grand finale of the piece. The three actors all do very well with their performances, with Maria Victoria Eugenio an excellent, silent and petrified Janet; Sarah Tyler Shaw (Brenda) a well-played sympathetic friend to George and a motherly figure to Janet; and Mike Evans as George, the angry, withdrawn widower who initially refuses to have anything to do with an evacuee.
It’s definitely well worth a visit for a bit of theatrical terror this autumn right on our doorstep – I’d highly recommend it!
More details about The Evacuee and the theatre company behind it – Quint-Essential – can be found at www.quint-essentialtheatre.co.uk.
The Evacuee is on at The Chelsea Theatre until 17th November 2013. To book tickets, please see www.chelseatheatre.org.uk/the-evacuee.