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Thriller that really thrills

PUBLISHED: 12:46 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 17:26 16 August 2010

NORMALLY I m fairly disparaging of shows that guarantee the theatregoer will be on the edge of their seat , writes Mark Campbell.

NORMALLY I'm fairly disparaging of shows that guarantee the theatregoer will be 'on the edge of their seat', writes Mark Campbell.

It's a strong claim, but one that can be easily quashed by parking one's bottom squarely on the central part of the seat and keeping it there.

However, the producers of Nightmare at Erith Playhouse went one further by also saying their play would be 'a jolly good partner-clutching night out'.

Well, I can't claim to have clutched my partner (although he would probably have liked it), but I can say with some certainty that I have rarely been more on edge inside a theatre.

Roger S Moss (which sounds suspiciously like a pseudonym) wrote only one play, and this is it.

Cheerfully cheesy, Nightmare is full of jumps, shocks and carefully signposted Nasty Characters.

Like an Agatha Christie whodunit without the subtlety, this is a straightforward thriller that does exactly what it says on the tin.

A young couple have just moved into a converted village chapel and immediately find themselves at the centre of strange goings-on involving secretive locals and a mysteriously locked cupboard.

Is housekeeper Miss Peterson really who she says she is? Is the gardener Mr Harvey as avuncular as he seems? And is the next-door graveyard really never used?

No. Obviously.

Nightmare isn't performed often, and you can see why. Featuring a theatrical trick on almost every page, the scope for disaster is huge.

But thanks to strong direction by Graham Frosdick and plenty of off-stage miracles by stagehands Sue Newman and Diane Frosdick, who also supplied the many props, the evening was an almost complete success.

James Turner and Sara Nichols were instantly believable as the newly wed couple, with Rachel De Silva proving what a great actress she is in two very different roles and Tony Bate giving great support as always.

But Colin Burring and Graham Frosdick's luxurious mezzanine set was the real star of the show. Meticulously detailed, it was well up to West End standards.

Huge fun from beginning to end, Nightmare was that rare thing - a thriller that really thrilled.

* The next production at Erith Playhouse will be The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, from 29 September. Tickets: 01322 350345.

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