Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

obsession top

Stuart Wishart as John Barratt explains his purpose, bit by bit, to Andy Bingham  as Mark Driscoll and Amy Cooper as his wife, Sally. Pictures: Colin Hill

Dangerous Obsession

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


It’s something of mystery in itself, how Dangerous Obsession by Norman James Crisp never became one of the great psychological thrillers in the same way as the likes of Dial M for Murder or Sleuth.

Perhaps the amended film version, Darkness Falls, back in 1999 never helped, with a poorly revised plot that appalled Crisp, enough for him to remove his name from the production.

Whatever the reasons are, Dangerous Obsession remains one of the most engaging and compelling plays about deadly mind games that has perhaps been written for a small cast of just three people. It is also a testament to the writing that the entire action takes place in one single setting, that being the conservatory of a large country house.

Underneath the tension is a subtle examination of wealth and privilege and the veneer of social happiness. The strength of the work is the powerful contrast of how one hardworking, simple, caring man, looked down upon by his rich associates, takes back power with steely intelligence.

So a stranger, John Barrett, arrives one day at the home of Mark and Sally Driscoll. Sally is alone when he arrives, she has been sunbathing in the garden and thinking him to be a salesman she finds his sudden appearance unsettling. However he remains waiting for the arrival of her husband Mark from work. Once the three of them are together the story begins to unfold and what seems like a request for a simple business meeting by Barrett actually opens out to become something far more sinister.

geek and mild

Meek, mild and dangerous: Stuart Wishart as Barratt and Amy Cooper as Sally  

Sally was played by Amy Cooper. Taking a little time to open up to the depths of the situation, she was overall quite convincing as the middle class wife, whiling her days away with gin and tonics in the sunny garden of her elaborate and comfortable country home.

Mark Driscoll was played by Andy Bingham. Mr Bingham often seems to play the louder and arrogant characters in the Nonentities productions so it was nice to see him deliver a performance that had him eventually begging for mercy at the final revelations that Barret delivers to the couple.

The driving force of the play was Stuart Wishart as the unsettling but ruthlessly intelligent John Barrett. Mr Wishart gave a masterclass in his role, calmly veering from someone who seems emotionally broken and unable to fulfil his plans, to then lighting a sudden fire, a picture of steely evil in the psychological and sometimes violent control of the Driscoll's fate.

Although there was lot to reveal in the plot you seemed to hang on his every word and there were real gasps from the audience when he finally subjects them to his manipulative will. His ability to conjure menace with a much understated delivery is a skill that many professional actors would struggle with.

Dangerous Obsession is truly an overlooked classic and Jan Eglinton's direction balances the moral dilemma of the piece beautifully throughout the play.

There is a saying that fear has two meanings, forget everything and run or face everything and rise. This play is a testament to that notion both within the writing and the Nonentities production. To 03-03-18

Jeff Grant


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate