The Visit opens with optimism: the citizens of Gullen are looking forward to the arrival of one of their own and hoping she will spread some of her good fortune around her old town. But, immediately upon her arrival, it becomes apparent that Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world, is used to always getting what she wants – and what she wants now is murder.
Nicholas Humphrey’s thought-provoking direction builds a sense of menace right from the outset, using sound, movement and, in particular, repetition to contribute to the aura of unavoidable impending doom. The characters of the blind eunuchs (Christopher Dowling and Carlos Mapano) add to this considerably, as does the slightly unusual use of physical theatre, when the actors’ bodies transform but their faces remain very much in character.
Madlena Nedeva, as Claire, gave a credible portrayal of wealth and world-weariness, and Danny Reyntiens, as her old lover Ill, was consistently watchable throughout, especially approaching the end as he became resigned to his fate. Fiona Watson’s Teacher was particularly sympathetically played, and I would love to have seen more of Erin Siobhan, whose various parts were short but significant. For my money, the best female performance came from Penelope Day, who maintained a marvellous contrast between the Police Officer and Matilda Ill.
Although there was comedy in the play from the outset (“my father built those public toilets”), particularly in Clive Alexander’s quirky portrayal of husbands 7, 8 and 9, it was mostly overshadowed by the growing sense of claustrophobia. The main exception was the scene with the reporters in Act II, where Ian MacNaughton excelled. In contrast to his serious and slightly macabre portrayal of the ex-judge in Act I, Ian’s reporter was fun and lively in a game-show host way, using vocal range, movement and a brilliantly expressive face to give us the funniest scene in the play – just moments before its sinister denouement.
Overall, this is a very good production. The tension builds exponentially and ends in a dramatic climax. Nothing is overdone or overstated, and the audience leaves with plenty to talk about! Try and catch one of the last three performances if you possibly can.
The Visit is at The Lord Stanley, 51 Camden Park Road, NW1 9BH on 14, 20 and 21 May at 7.30pm. For tickets visit www.theatrecollection.net or call 07966 597190.