20 December 2016

Benighted at Old Red Lion Theatre was neatly done

Without intending to, I found myself in something of a JB Priestly run and while this was with mixed results I was keen to see Benighted because it was billed as the original version of the story of a couple looking for shelter from a storm and finding themselves in a strange house which has been most famously used by The Rocky Horror Show.

It was also an excuse to go back to Old Red Lion theatre and pub. It was the pub first and that meant one of their pies. Nice it was too. So was the beer.

Having eaten I joined the queue that was starting to form at the bottom of the stairs and I was near enough to the front to get a good seat in the front row. It was an L shapes front-row and it was not obvious which were the best seats because of the shape of the stage and I settled for somewhere around the middle of the long side of the L.

The stage was suitably dark (I had to enhance the image below so that you could make any sense of it) and very woody.

It also quickly proved to be very flexible too as a few movements transformed part of it into a motor car. In this car, a typical 1920's open-top, were a young couple and a friend. They were lost somewhere in Wales and it was raining so they were looking for shelter. Any port in a storm they say and so they chose to go to a spooky gothic house where, after some reluctance, they were admitted.

What followed next was much as anticipated with unfriendly hosts, hints a plenty of mystery and moments of light amusement. I've never seen The Rocky Horror Show but I have seen plenty of episodes of Scooby-Doo and there were some obvious similarities. Benighted may not be original but it certainly predated those.

Another couple came to the house looking for shelter, a middle-aged businessman and a young chorus girl that he had adopted for the evening to provide some company and other pleasures.

Then the plot veered sharply from the standard Scooby-Doo script.

A relationship developed between the couple's friend and the chorus girl, there really was something weird going on in the house, and there was real menace about. Somebody died.

The play ended on a satisfying note that was both poignant and definitive, though far from happy.

The story did more than I expected, especially at the end, but the staging did much more than exceed expectations. I knew that it had Offie nominations for lighting and staging and I could see why. The small room became many places, inside and outside, and those places were filled with corridors, doors and stairs. A lot happened skillfully in a small space.

Benighted was a decent enough play and the masterful production lifted it several notches to make it a rewarding and entertaining evening.

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