REVIEW: Complex show offers gripping finale after slightly confusing start

The full cast of And Evermore Shall Be So
The full cast of And Evermore Shall Be So

And Evermore Shall Be So by Norman Robbins, Manor Theatre Group, North Heath Hall, Horsham, March 28

After a string of saucy and lighthearted comedies Horsham’s Manor Theatre Group has decided to try something a bit darker for it’s latest production.

Kathryn Felton and Martin Tickner as Helen and David Lilywhite

Kathryn Felton and Martin Tickner as Helen and David Lilywhite

And Evermore Shall Be So looks at the aftermath of a murder (four years after the dreadful event) and the consequences of a writer getting too close to the truth.

It’s potentially pretty sinister stuff but there’s a streak of black humour running through this show.

To be honest, I think the first scene is a little confusing. The events surrounding the murder are strange, and various unknown characters are mentioned in quick succession, which makes the plot difficult to follow.

However, a sensitive and well-observed performance from Julian Tiley as Reverend Edwin Summerfield really helps the audience engage with the material. Charlie McCulloch also does well as Edwin’s wife Lydia with her effective and naturalistic acting style.

Anna Bird as housekeeper Ida Cornish

Anna Bird as housekeeper Ida Cornish

The play picks up significantly when writer Brandon Walsh shows up to look into the crime. Craig Bunce portrays this character’s self-satisfied and over-confident nature in a realistic way. Brandon foolishly adopts an arrogant attitude to his work and subjects without considering potential dangers.

Mandy Lovell is also strong as the prickly and unpleasant Gwendolyn Cranshawe.

The play really moves into thriller territory at the end of Act One and director Caroline Dernoncourt keeps things tense during a gripping Act Two.

The play’s focus is on Edwin here but it’s arguably Andy Bates as Roy Steadman who keeps audience members on the edges of their seats. It’s an understated yet menacing performance and the audience is always aware of him as a (potentially) threatening figure.

Once again, Manor Theatre Group has picked an ensemble piece, so there are too many performers for a short review to discuss fully. However, Anna Bird (as housekeeper Ida Cornish), Kathryn Felton (as Helen Lilywhite) and Roger Kidd (as Maurice Walker) also offer memorable performances, and all actors put in an admirable effort to bring Norman Robbins’ story to life.

The charming Manor Theatre Group is currently celebrating its 35th year of producing shows in the Horsham District.

Let’s hope it will still be going strong in another 35.