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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Wait Until Dark
Garrick Theatre, Autumn 2003

Thieves terrorise blind woman to get something she doesn't realise she has.

Frederick Knott's 1966 thriller is one of those plays you think you remember seeing, even if you never actually did, so many of its twists and effects have been plagiarised by other plays and films since then.

So, for example, I won't really be giving anything away when I say that she's going to turn the lights out at one point.

The McGuffin in this case is a doll full of heroin, which the blind woman's husband was tricked into smuggling into the country, and which has gone astray. And the bad guys only resort to terror after devoting most of the play to an elaborate con game involving a supposed old army buddy of the husband's, a fake policeman, and the hint of adultery and murder.

A more recent writer might have kept us in the dark longer (so to speak) about just who the good guys and bad guys were, and who was conning who. But in the 1950s style Knott lays it all out at the start, so the only questions are whether she'll fall for the con and, once she figures it out, how she'll foil the baddies.

And on that level the play has a satisfying share of surprises and twists (including, near the end, what has since become the single most overused cliche of slasher movies), and if you put yourself in the right mood, you will be happily carried along, held in suspense, and thrilled as you are meant to be.

If Saskia Wickham doesn't seem quite at home yet in the central role, relying on external and mechanical things to indicate blindness and not really inhabiting it - notice, for example, how she ends every scene with exactly the same unconvincing attack of the shakes - Peter Bowles is effortlessly suave, slimy and menacing as the chief baddy, and Gary Mavers brings nice shadings to the more complex of his lieutenants.

Joe Harmsworth directs with an appropriate respect for the rock-solid material, though it would be nice if the pacing got a little more intense as things hot up near the end.

 
Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Wait Until Dark - Garrick 2003