The deadly art of seduction

Pillow talk: Paul Pengelly (Peter Amory) looks to his lover Melanie Tremayne (Nicola Weeks) for comfort while his ex-wife Susan (Joanne Heywood) fires a few barbed thoughts into the mix

Haunted

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

HAVING the ex turn up in the bedroom just as you are getting ready for a spot of horizontal aerobics with your no longer much of a secret lover would dampen any chap's ardour. Leave him a bit deflated in the down there department.

Throw in the poor bloke's cousin then popping up to join in the bedroom party and mad, passionate sex suddenly has all the appeal of contracting herpes.

And to add to the problem the pair of interlopers are insisting that our limp lothario should hold his hands up to two unfortunate murders  hidden in the folds in his groin driven life.

Peter Amory, Chris Tate in Emmerdale, is superb as the lover with a past, Paul Pengelly in this supernatural thriller by Ron Aldridge.

He also showed commendable professional expertise and no mean feat of memory in appearing in this lead role on Monday night after ending in a lead role in The Final Test at the Grand on Saturday. It might be his job, but it is still not easy.

Paul has moved into the Cornish home, or at least bedroom, of his lover, who is another cousin incidentally, Melanie Tremayne, played by Nicola Weeks. The Pengellys see the Tremaynes as the more common and vulgar end of the Cornish dynasty apparently which gives a sort of hint of Romeo and Juliet friction to add a little don't tell mother spice to the plot

Nicola, like Peter Amory, has been a regular in Ian Dickens productions and you can see why with a polished performance.

So while Paul is going through what appears to be a brief synopsis of the Kama Sutra with Melanie on the telephone into their carefree life of idyllic happiness and sexual adventure walks Paul's ex-wife Susan played by the remarkably seductive and sexy Joanne Heywood who manages virtually single handedly to turn this into an erotic, supernatural thriller. 

Melanie's brother Richard (Nick Ricketts) has his own views on Paul's affair

It is a classy performance as she uses her considerable sexual charms as a tool to prise open her ex-husband's mind – and, incidentally, keep the minds of the men in the audience somewhat more concentrated.

Then just when Paul's mind seems to be resisting the lure of the loins, reinforcements arrive in the shape of Melanie's brother Richard, played with bouncy confidence by Nick Ricketts. He uses a somewhat different technique to get inside Paul's head, just in case you were wondering. Paul most definitely only bats for one side.

There are shades of Blithe Spirit about the play with the ghosts of past transgressions rearing their accusing heads but director Andrew Lynford manages to keep up the tension and suspense through to the very last scene when, as we all knew it would be, truth will out.

He is helped by a quality cast who provide the odd moments of humour as they build up the suspense picking Paul's life is picked.. It is not a shocker, there is no moment leaving the audience gasping, just a well written, well acted, enjoyable dip into the supernatural.

As with any thriller plot is everything so it us unfair to give too much away apart from saying it is a well-constructed and believable scenario created by Aldridge while Paul Cooke deserves some praise fro some very understated but effective illusions.

Haunted extends  Ian Dickens' Summer Play season at the Grand to five weeks and is a late replacement for Dry Rot, not an Ian Dickens production I hasten to add,  because the tour has been cancelled citing of poor ticket sales.

This might not be a classic comedy but in terms of entertaining theatre it is a more than adequate replacement. To 28-07-12.

Roger Clarke

Meanwhile levitating at the back . . .

**** 

YOU can't help but see a similarity between this new Ron Aldridge play and the old classic, Blithe Spirit, with the ghosts of former wives popping up on stage to create a bit of mischief.

But in this late replacement for 'Dry Rot', Ian Dickens Productions have found a supernatural thriller with a generous helping of sex in some extremely steamy bedroom scenes that will surprise any audience.

Shapely Joanne Heywood gives a particularly intense performance as Susan Pengelly who turns up just as husband Paul (Peter Amory) is chatting on the phone to his lover, having apparently got away with two murders, and makes a determined effort to seduce him.

Amory, of Emmerdale fame, is superb in the role of the tormented husband, pleased to have convinced the authorities that the deaths of his lover's cousin, then his wife, were not his fault, but two determined spirits arrive intent on forcing a confession.

Nicola Weeks is convincing as Paul's lover, Melanie Tremayne, and the action takes place in the bedroom of her Cornwall home. Nick Ricketts (cousin Richard Tremayne) completes a fine cast in a play containing exciting and technically clever scenes and illusions.

Directed by Andrew Lynford, Haunted runs to 28.07.12

Paul Marston

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