Night Watch - performed June 1993

By Lucille Fletcher

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Val Taylor


(in order of appearance)

Elaine Wheeler Claire Morris
John Wheeler Adrian Bolton
Helga Allison Trenerry
Vanelli Chris Mead
Lionel Appleby Chris Mason
Blanche Cooke Petra Mills
Det Inspector Walker Kevan Porter
Dr Tracey Lake Viv Wheatley
Sam Hoke Bert Yeates

Production Team

Jude Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Rachael Ross, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Peggy Barber, Greg Garrad, Alan Laurie, Linda Gatt, Sue Smith, Jenny Glayzer, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

Unable to sleep, Elaine Wheeler paces the living room of her Manhattan townhouse, troubled by unsettling memories and vague fears. Her husband tries to comfort her, but when he steps away for a moment Elaine screams as she sees (or believes she sees) the body of a dead man in the window across the way. The police are called, but find nothing except an empty chair. Elaineís terror grows as shortly thereafter she sees still another body--this time a womanís--but by now the police are sceptical and pay no heed to her frantic pleas. Her husband, claiming that Elaine may be on the verge of a breakdown, calls in a lady psychiatrist, who agrees with his suggestion that Elaine should commit herself to a sanatorium for treatment. From this point on, the plot moves quickly and grippingly as those involved--Elaineís old friend and house guest Blanche; the inquisitive and rather sinister man who lives next door; and the nosy German maid Helga--all contribute to the deepening suspense and mystery of the play as it draws towards its riveting and chilling climax.


Manifest do well in an unusual thriller

FOR their final offering of the current season, the Manifest Theatre Group chose Night Watch by Lucille Fletcher. It was billed as a complex psychological thriller. Weird would be a better description and it was at time rather heavy going, particularly in the first act. Writing in the programme, chairman Simon Colbourne promised the play was a chance for individual actors to show their strength of character portrayed and that was certainly very true.

Nobody proved this more than leading lady Claire Morris, a member of the Manningtree-based thespians for the past four years. On stage for practically the whole of the two hours, Claire, as the apparently neurotic Elaine Wheeler, gave an outstanding performance. Despite long and complicated dialogue, she never faltered, ably conveying the impression of an irritatingly weak woman teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
She was well-supported by Adrian Bolton as her husband, while Chris Mason, who over the years has firmly established himself as a favourite with the audiences, did not let his supporters down, even if he was only occasionally on stage.
And there was a delightful cameo performance for Bert Yeates, a founder of the group and at 78 its oldest acting member. Since its formation 14 years ago, the Manifest has staged all types of plays, its members willingly rising to every challenge, and has rarely disappointed its numerous admirers. However Night Watch, although keeping up the groupís now established reputation for well-produced, directed and presented productions, was not the type of play I enjoy and I left the Oxford Road theatre feeling rather dispirited.
The Standard

Twisted nerves, woven tension

THIS was originally set in an elegantly remodelled town-house facing an abandoned Manhatten tenement. Its transference to a tastefully converted warehouse opposite a burnt-out building in London seems a logical choice. Certainly it solves many accent problems in this intricately woven psychological thriller by Lucille Fletcher. But despite the trouble taken to Anglicise references and idioms, there are times when things jar simply because the play was written in American.

Val Taylorís sure direction weaves the threads of tension in a household whose central figure is an insomniac, mentally unstable wife. The chilling revelation at the end twists the nerves almost unbearably. Her case are all assured in performance, if not always at one in the required timing. There is a striking central characterisation from Claire Morris as Elaine, around whose neuroses and bitter memories the play theoretically revolves. The frenzied hysteria contrasting with periods of calm are vividly created. Her rounding off of her fundamental purpose is riveting.
Adrian Bolton makes a solid, frayed-at-the-edges husband John. Petra Mills is cool and blonde as the nurse-cum-friend Blanche. Allison Trenneryís nosy Helga is forceful in her perceived image as a stormtrooper. But there are layers of perception and reaction with her pungent Teutonic accent. Chris Mason has real presence, purpose and sympathy as the not too obviously limp-wristed Appleby. Viv Wheatley looks every inch the distinguished psychiatrist with professional resource. Chris Meadís constable Vanelli has his effective quirks, and Kevan Porterís exasperated Detective Inspector Walker might very well find his like in The Bill. Bert Yeates erupts briefly as the infuriated Sam Hoke. The Picasso and Modigliani pictures are as impressive as the lighting and sound, in a gripping, slightly uneven, unusual production.
Jimmy James

Photo Shoot

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