Theatre Royal Concert Hall Nottingham – until Saturday 24 September 2022
Reviewed by Amarjeet Singh
The Wicked Lady is a 2-hander play, written and directed by James Williams, the play is inspired by the legend of a noblewoman turned highway-woman Katherine Ferrers, known as the Wicked Lady, who is said to haunt the village of Markyate in Hertfordshire. We are led to believe that Ferrers’ tale is the background to a modern-day mystery in which a child has been abducted, but here begins the bewildering experience that was The Wicked Lady.
It started out marvellously, as we took our seats in the theatre, atmospheric sounds were being played and there were ominous sheets draped and a forest scene on the stage. Then boom, on walks a police detective to set the scene and implant seeds of fear. He spoke directly to the audience and told us that the police were on the case of the missing child and how they needed to call in the help of a paranormal debunker to support the case. We were then introduced to Alice Beaumont. After some initial reluctance, Alice agreed to spend a few nights at Ferrers’ disused manor house Markyate Cell, which is where they suspect the missing child is, and where things begin to go bump in the night.
The story of The Wicked Lady made no sense. There appeared to be a moral, and a message the writer was trying to get across, but it was lost in translation with a lot of unnecessary dialogue, static and stilted staging and a very strange choice of pace. The sound levels were poor, and we were unable to hear a lot of what was being said, but even when this was rectified in the second half, it didn’t seem to improve viewing. The narrative would benefit from stripping out some of the lengthy explanations, the story would not need it had it made sense.
The initial jump scares were effective, from slams to shadows, some of the audience actually jumped, unfortunately these became repetitive and expected.
The lighting and smoke effects were great, but the set was strange. It did not give images of gothic architecture but more that of a ski cabin. Also, there were some parts of the set which didn’t make sense. There was furniture that was suddenly accessible because it now lended itself to the story: A locked bureau is now open and contains whiskey glasses and a fresh apple, but they are in a disused gothic manor house?
The characters did questionable things which made them comical and unbelievable. The intentional jokes did not land, and the audience were laughing during the supposed scary parts. The Wicked Lady missed the mark on so many levels.
Nicki Davy plays Alice Beaumont and is largely a sole actor during the manor house scenes. She did exceptionally well with the amount of dialogue she needed to deliver, but it was difficult to endear ourselves to her as she was pretty one note in her story and delivery. I feel this is more down to the writing than the performance.
Saul Bache plays the detective sergeant Sean Fenton. He is slick and likeable, helping us to understand his diligent efforts to discover the whereabouts of the missing child. Again, the writing let is performance down, as it meandered into the ridiculous.
The Wicked Lady could have been amazing, it has all the basics for a wonderful gothic horror story, with a truly horrific modern twist, but unfortunately it fell foul to being verbose, having glaring plot holes and it was at best, an amateur production.