Where Not To Be At The Bewitching Hour

Image of Marinell HaegelinBy Marinell Haegelin

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight! by Peter Colley at English Theatre with Robert Rumpf directing.

The English Theatre of Hamburg commences its 41st Anniversary Season with a thriller… of sorts. Because British/Canadian playwright Peter Colley admits his “kind of tongue-in-cheek approach” creeps into his work. As humor will, it abets by adding to webs woven around his characters, keeping audiences a step, or two, behind throughout. Rest assured –no spoilers here.

Arriving at an isolated country house, a refuge Greg rented following Jan’s release from hospital, he persuasively offsets her concerns; still, she’s uneasy. They are arguing about Greg’s sister when saved by a knock at the door. Neighbor George’s loquacious, hearty personality appeals to Jan, but not his terrifying stories. Then Laura arrives. Both women appear friendly, however past behaviors quickly emerge. Greg and Laura’s unnatural coziness only contributes to Jan’s fears, which are exacerbated by strange things happening in the night. And George’s accounting of mysterious occurrences in the area doesn’t help, “country folk got more imagination”. With nerves on edge following her recent nervous breakdown, Jan’s emotional instability makes matters worse. Unbeknownst to all, their nightmare is just beginning, and midnight seems to be the bewitching hour.

Image of characters in The English Theatre of Hamburg production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight!
From left: Alan Booty/George, Holly Smith/Laura, Christopher Hunter/Greg, and Eleanore Joyce/Jan. Credit: © Kock, ETH

Director Robert Rumpf skillfully delivers this nerve-wracking murder mystery with just enough doses of humor. He deftly accentuates the many hints concerning underlying objectives strewn throughout the play – pay attention audiences. Rumpf appreciates London casts because of their level of professionalism toward theatrical performances. Just as Holly Smith/Laura likes Rumpf’s calmness as a director, she appreciates that he’s attuned to each character’s personality, and the actors interpretations and interactions in the play. An English Theatre (ETH) veteran, Holly (Candida, 2015) recognizes it would have been easy to portray Laura as a “soap opera bitch.” However, humanizing her character was important; therefore, Holly’s focus to show the layers and complicatedness of Laura’s personality.

Images from The English Theatre of Hamburg production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight!
From left: Alan Booty/George, Christopher Hunter/Greg, Eleanore Joyce/Jan, and Holly Smith/Laura. Credit: © Kock, ETH

Recognizing Greg’s complexities, Christopher Hunter concentrated on finding the correct balance, projecting the variances in his character’s relationship to sister (Laura) and wife (Jan). He found and maintains that balance so audiences are kept unaware of what is really going on underneath: the element of surprise(s) is crucial. Interestingly, Eleanore Joyce/Jan’s approach is almost identical to Chris’. To show the development of Jan’s temperament from the start to end of the play, Eleanore artfully increased her character’s emotional reactions by subtle degrees. ETH veteran Alan Booty (Quartet, 2009; Big Boys, 2013; Orphans, 2016) said that comparing his role as George to Harold in Orphans is like comparing Of Mice and Men to A Streetcar Named Desire. Still, he loves his role because there is much more to the typically affable, friendly neighbor than meets the eye at the start of the play.

Image of characters Jan and Greg in The English Theatre of Hamburg production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight!
Eleanore Joyce/Jan left, and Christopher Hunter/Greg right. Credit: © Kock, ETH

Rumpf knows the playwright/director personally and Peter Colley’s attended ETH. With theatre in his blood dating back to grandfather’s 1770s Pontefract theatre, award-winning Colley directed his first play at the Drama Studio, Sheffield, England. As a resident playwright and director at Canada’s The Grand Theatre, his play The Donnellys broke that theatre’s box office records. Commissioned by the Blyth Festival, Ontario, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight worldwide has grossed 40 million. The prolific Colley writes for theatre, film, television, and textbooks. Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star’s chief theatre critic called Peter, “Canada’s Master of Mayhem” in respect to Colley’s theatrical thrillers. Join in the fun, and see this thriller… performances are definitely finished before midnight.

I’LL BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT! premiered September 7 and runs until November 4, 2017. The next production is BOEING-BOEING, Marc Camoletti’s farce – English version by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans. Premiering on November 16, 2017, it runs through February 3, 2018.

Evening and matinee performances; tickets available at the theatre or online: The English Theatre of Hamburg, Lerchenfeld 14, 22081 Hamburg, Tel: 040-227 70 89: U-Bahn Mundsburg.