The House by the Lake
Venue : Woodrush High School
Date : March 1963
Genre : Drama
Murder Drama at Wythall
It is a recognised fact that during the presentation of a tense drama, an audience will find an excuse to laugh to relieve the tension. If this is so, Wythall Dramatic Society certainly created tension when they presented ‘The House by the Lake’ by Hugh Mills, at Woodrush School, Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Quite often during the evening bouts of nervous laughter were to be heard. Actions caused laughter last Friday that would not have caused the slightest titter during a comedy.
The person most responsible for creating the tension was Dorothy Girling, the last-minute stand-in (we apologise for omitting her name in last week’s edition). Every time she walked onto the stage the audience braced themselves, waiting apprehensively for her next move and speech.
The theme of the play is one of suicide and murder. Prior to the opening, Maurice (a doctor) has been struck off the medical register due to a financial tangle caused by his brother Colin.
Maurice, together with his sister Stella, plans to murder Colin by poisoning him and dropping him through the ice on a nearby lake. As Colin always used the lake to cross from his own house it would look like an accident.
Assisted by a police inspector Janet discovers the murder, and when he knows of her suspicion Maurice decides to murder her too. He hypnotises her, taking her back to the days when her only wish was to end her life. He hands her a revolver and leaves the room commanding her to count to 60 before pulling the trigger.
Inevitably the Inspector rushes in and stops her, but not until she has reached over 30 and has raised the gun to her head.
The scene where Maurice hypnotised Janet had a truly hypnotic effect on the whole audience; the saying ‘you could have heard a pin drop’ was never more apt. To me this was the highlight of the production, with Bob Aldridge (playing Maurice) at his best. The tone of his voice was everything tat one expects of a hypnotist.
His performance throughout the play was good, although it is a pity he, more than once, muddled the names of the other characters.
I feel I must mention Dorothy Girling again. To me she was the star of the show and Wythall must be very proud of the new addition to their company. Whenever tension, tenderness or anger were required she excelled, making everyone feel she was really living the part.
Brenda Castle, playing Stella, also gave a convincing performance, although at times I thought she was over acting. Be that as it may, the part was obviously well rehearsed and well put over.
Maurice Simpson, playing Colin, and new-comer Jill Cobill playing Iris, his wife, both took their parts well. This was the first time that Jill Cobill had taken to the stage, and it is unfortunate that she should have one of the most difficult tasks in her part – that of crying. She made a good attempt at producing tears, but not, I am afraid, as well as Dorothy Girling.
I know detectives and police officers are renowned for their calmness during a crisis, but I feel Gerry Smith, playing Mr Howard, took things a little too far. During a duologue with Dorothy Girling in particular, he remained too unruffled, while she was working herself up.
Jack Parramore, who took the part of Colonel Forbes and Sarah Gardener playing Brenda the maid, both had smaller parts, but portrayed them well. Jack obviously spent some time cultivating his accent.
Everyone has his idea of typical district nurse, the bolt, upright hard on the surface, soft underneath, type, and to my mind Marian James was just that. The part of Nurse Thompson was only small, but Marian made the most she possibly could out of it.
The House by the Lake was the society’s first attempt at a full-length drama calling for a sustained atmosphere of tension on the part of the players, and I think it should not be the last.
Taking into consideration that the cast had been working together for only a month, the result was highly commendable, and last minute producer Ted Pedvin should be pleased with the performance.
M.L.D., Local Paper