Review: Newport Playgoers Society – Snake In The Grass, Dolman Theatre, Newport

Andy Howells visits Newport’s Dolman Theatre on the week of International Women’s Day to view an Alan Ayckbourn penned classic featuring three all-woman protagonists. In true Ayckbourn style – Snake in The Grass is unmissable!

Newport Playgoers’ presentation of Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy, Snake In The Grass finally arrived at the Dolman Theatre stage on Thursday evening, after the show’s first night had been cancelled due to the arrival of snow in and around Newport on Wednesday.

Thankfully, the audience could select another performance to attend and there was a great turn out on Thursday evening for what was to be the premiere performance. Thoughts of the drizzly wintry weather outside were quickly put aside as the curtain lifted to reveal a sunny garden displaying the first signs of autumn.

We meet Annabel Chester, who has returned home from Tasmania for the first time in 35 years after learning of the passing of her father. Annabel is greeted by her late father’s nurse, Alice who was recently dismissed by Annabel’s sister Miriam. Alice reveals that Annabel’s father had written to her claiming that Miriam was attempting to kill him and that she will go to the Police with the letter, unless Annabel can pay her off. The story escalates when Miriam arrives on the scene and appears to be unstable and seemingly will do anything to cover up her father’s murder, including disposing of Alice…

Ayckbourn turns the concept of a Ghost Play on its head by steering away from spooky old houses and presenting an outdoor setting moving from exposed sunlight to dusky shadows.

It is then down to the energy of the three all-woman protagonists to convey the menace and underlying fear of what is to come. The collective talents of Adele Cordner, Ann Harrison and Jennie Crum brilliantly convey the different elements of their characters through hysteria, manipulation, cold calculation and humour at varying degrees.

The plot suitably twists and turns along with the personalities of the characters. Adele Cordner’s Annabel beautifully transits from in-control to pure desperation. Ann Harrison’s Miriam is disconcerting, unsettling, but seemingly calculating, while Jennie Crum’s Alice seems manipulative but also out of her depth. The beautiful thing is each character has a major twist as the story unfurls springing surprises on the audience as Snake In The Grass approaches its heady climax.

Alan Ayckbourn’s material has been amongst my favourite presentations from Newport Playgoers over the last decade and here, director Moira Mainwaring has delivered one of the writer’s finest.

Snake In The Grass showcases the acting talents of three incredible women on the week of International Women’s Day. Do not miss it!

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