Chilled to the bone at Abbey Theatre

The cast of the Abbey Theatre's new play I'll Be Back Before Midnight. They are, from left - Nadia Steel, Aaron Bain, Hilary Tasker and Gordon Holder.
The cast of the Abbey Theatre's new play I'll Be Back Before Midnight. They are, from left - Nadia Steel, Aaron Bain, Hilary Tasker and Gordon Holder.

ABBEY Theatre Club’s latest production is a tense and entertaining chiller with more than a few twists and turns.

‘I’ll be back before midnight’ by Peter Colley runs at the Abbey Theatre until Saturday, February 16, and is produced and directed by Alan Johnston.

It tells the story of Jan (Hilary Tasker), a recovering mental patient, and her detached husband Greg (Aaron Bain), who rent a remote cottage to work on their marriage.

Their peace is quickly shattered by Laura (Nadia Grace Steel), Greg’s acerbic and clingy sister, and George (Gordon Holder), the potentially unhinged farmer who lives nearby.

The set looks bigger than normal and it appears the production crew have employed some creative trickery to create the illusion of more space, aided by some action taking place in the wings out of sight.

However, despite this added space, the cottage quickly becomes an oppressive and claustrophobic place which causes Jan to gradually unravel in catastrophic style.

Her antagonistic relationship with Laura is explored in great detail and both Hilary Tasker and Nadia Grace Steel lock horns in convincing fashion.

It quickly becomes apparent that Jan and Greg’s marriage has suffered, possibly through the unnaturally close relationship between Greg and his sister.

This has resulted in Jan suffering a mental breakdown, lapsing into catatonia and spending months in hospital.

Still fragile, the pressure of living with Laura and the spooky goings on at the remote cottage serve to erode Jan’s mental health with terrible consequences.

Gordon Holder really gets to grips with the enigmatic George who is more than just the theatre staple of the crazy farmer.

Finally, Aaron Bain has bookish and mild-mannered down to a tee in his character of Greg. An obviously flawed character, the audience struggles throughout the play to decide whether they like him or not.

The production makes great use of sound effects, something which has not always been used to full effect at the Abbey, and the ghostly heartbeat is particularly atmospheric.

The special effects are also spot on, with convincing power cuts, storms, gun shots and bloody manifestations helping to rack up the tension.

The cast and crew have pulled out all the stops to produce an excellent show and as with all good thrillers ‘I’ll be back by midnight’ has enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing right to the end.

Tickets are £7 and are available by visiting the bookings section of www.theabbeytheatre.org or by calling 01241 872609.

J.R.