The 1935 play Night Must Fall, by former Grove Park Theatre patron Emlyn Williams, has been a popular production for the theatre group. This is the third production they’ve put on – but even with Williams’s own link to the group, it’s difficult to see why they made the choice. Some strong performances, particularly from 19-year-old Andrew Evans in the central role of Dan, can’t outweigh a bizarre story which starts slowly, picks up somewhat in the middle scenes, but eventually lurches to a melodramatic climax.
Catherine Eve is excellent as Mrs Bramson, the old lady whose bungalow the action takes place in. The relationship between the elderly widow and Dan, a young man who worms his way into her affections after impregnating her maid, is so bizarre that it’s always going to be difficult to take it seriously, but Eve and Evans just about make it work. More problematic is the interplay between Claire Armitage as Olivia Grayne, Mrs Bramson’s niece, and Evans. With Olivia clearly suspecting Dan of the murder of a local woman, there’s just too many points at which she does stupid things for her character to seem realistic. That’s more of a criticism of the playwright than the actor, but it’s the kind of problem which could perhaps have been overcome by great chemistry between the two actors and this falls short.
The rest of the cast does what they can with this script, while the set looks wonderful – authentically 1930’s – and it’s generally well-directed, save for a rather overwrought conclusion to the penultimate scene complete with sound effects to signify a beating heart. All in all, this is rather a disappointment by Grove Park’s normal high standards, though.