REVIEW: The Cat And The Canary at The Alexandra

Building on the phenomenal decade-long success of The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, The Classic Thriller Theatre Company presents their fifth production - The Cat And The Canary - an adaptation of the famous stage thriller which went on to spawn three hit movie versions.

The show continues a successful reopening for The Alexandra, and features an all-star cast including international superstar Britt Ekland (The Man with the Golden Gun), Blue’s Anthony Costa, Tracy Shaw (Coronation Street) and Marti Webb (Evita, Tell Me on a Sunday).

The story is set twenty years after the death of Mr. West when his descendants gather to learn who will inherit his vast wealth and the hidden family jewels. Within moments, the heritage hunters turn into prey. Walls crack open, shadows loom, and dark secrets are revealed.

First thing's first - the set is beautifully designed. Dressed in a period style, the flickering lights, thunder and lightning add to the tension as the gathering family await their fate. Following the interval, the set changes to a bedroom surrounded by disconcerting images of framed eyes - this production is designed to make you feel uneasy and it does an excellent job of doing so.

Credit should also be given to the sound and lighting design which is nothing short of eerie. So often, in thrillers adapted for the stage those areas can become a pastiche. However for this production, subtlety is key and the piece is better for it.

Shaw leads the cast as Annabelle West - the heir to the estate - a part she plays exquisitely. Known to millions as Maxine Peacock, Shaw proves she’s broken away from and soap stereotypes and her characterisation of Annabelle is perfect.

Eckland is a joy as the eerie housekeeper, Mrs Pleasant. Her balance of ‘creepy’ versus ‘stabilising’ is perfect, flicking from being in control to scaring the others at the drop of a hat. Her decades of experience are clear to see.

Webb brings a comedic element to the piece as Aunt Susan and, as one of theatres most revered leading ladies, is brilliant in a straight role. An audience more used to hearing her belt out Don’t Cry For Me Argentina was in its element tonight being able to appreciate her talent as an actress exclusively.

However, for me, Costa was the surprise star of the show. Not in a bad way - having seen him in more than one production over the years it was clear he could act, however on a stage with a cast list such as it is, he held his own and had the audience in stitches as the (initially) hapless vet, Paul.

With a concept and design not dissimilar to The Mousetrap, this production of The Cat And The Canary is a pleasure to watch from start to finish - as long as you’ve got a strong disposition, that is…!

The Cat And The Canary plays at The Alexandra until Saturday 9th October. For more information, or to get your tickets, you can visit atgtickets.com/birmingham.

Credit: Paul Coltas

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