York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 9 October 2021
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
Presented by Tilted Wig, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story by Washington Irving. This brand-new adaptation is currently playing at York Theatre Royal and promises to unleash one of the most terrifying monsters from the horror canon – the Headless Horseman. The question is, did it deliver?
As we enter the theatre there is an eerie mist emanating from the stage, a scarecrow, complete with a pumpkin head, right in the centre and straw bales to the sides. As the action commences the pumpkin head swivels round and we see his evil glowing face. It all seems so promising.
The story is set in the late 18th century in Sleepy Hollow. It centres on Baltus Van Tassel (Bill Ward) and his daughter Katrina (Rose Quentin). A newcomer Ichabod Crane (Sam Jackson) competes for the hand of Katrina with Brom ‘Bones’ Van Brunt (Lewis Cope), whilst being taken under the wing of widow Mariette Papenfuss (Wendi Peters). With ghostly tales of folklore and legend, not is all as it seems and disturbing events start happening.
All the cast play are playing multiple roles, and the action can be quite physical. I was impressed with Peter’s ascents and descents of the ladder. At times there would be spontaneous dancing and chanting within a scene. Though this was uplifting I am unsure of its purpose.
The use of stage and props worked well, with carts being rolled on and off the stage, sliding doors, ladders up to rooms. The use of smoke and lighting were very atmospheric, creating an eerie ambience. There was also a bit of shadow puppetry, where Tommy Sim’aan depicts, what I believe to be, the devil. This was effective, but from where I was sitting, as well as seeing the shadow you could also get glimpses of the actor as well. We had flying rats, which created both a shudder and a laugh, but the icing on the cake was the headless horseman, complete with horse. When it appeared on stage it was huge and packed a punch, the highlight of the whole show.
I did find the story telling very confusing and at times I had no idea what was happening, it was all very mish mash, jumping back and forwards in time. Unfortunately, I also had issues with the speech accents, and could not always comprehend what was being said. As for being scary, and putting us on the edge of our seats, apart from a couple of little jumps, it is lacking bit of edge. Though it did have its moments it did not deliver for me, I would like more from a horror story.