REVIEW: Snake in the Grass at the Riverhead Theatre

WRAP up warm, because there’s a sudden cold shiver heading straight for your spine...

After the superb quality of the past few Louth Playgoers productions at the Riverhead Theatre, the highly talented Chris Winney has had a difficult job to do as director of Alan Ayckbourn’s Snake In The Grass.

The thriller was Ayckbourn’s 61st play and was written as a female equivalent to his earlier 1994 play Haunting Julia. Snake In The Grass is cleverly written, and tells the story of Annabel returning to her family home following the death of her father. Here, she meets her father’s nurse who appears to be blackmailing her sister, Miriam.

The chilling story then begins its journey of death, deceit and despair, and leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout.

With such a small cast, the play relies heavily on the sheer talent and commitment of the actors – particularly with the mammoth task of learning loquacious and emotive scenes.

Helen Appleton delivers an astonishing performance as the defiant yet anxious Annabel, Vicki Head portrays the seemingly emotionally ruined Miriam remarkably, and Viv Bateman lets sinister tones pierce beautifully through as the nurse, Alice Moody.

Continuing to shine brightly is the dedicated and hardworking set team; Snake In The Grass’ set is incredibly detailed, brimming with authenticity and is tremendously well designed by John Hollingsworth.

Every last detail has been considered, from the eerie mesh wiring of the tennis court fence right down to the crispy autumnal leaves that litter the stage floor.

Combined with the dynamic lighting, clever effects and ominous music, it became genuinely difficult to remember that I was only sitting in an auditorium looking at a stage.

So, the important question is: have Chris Winney, his cast and the backstage team done a fantastic job of delivering this atmospheric thriller? Most definitely - it’s gripping, it’s tense, and you don’t quite know what’s around the corner.

But one thing is certain; you need to go and witness the spectacular story for yourself.

Review by Stuart Spendlow.