The year is 1937 and the Yorkshire mines are facing closure. Wealthy mine owner, Harold Pritchard, not only has this problem to contend with, but it has been ten years since he and his wife lost their twelve year old son, Edgar, to Bracken Moor and his wife has decided she should be with her dead child.
British playwright, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Bracken Moor is dark and complex with good story telling elements of a first rate ghost story. Rob Croser’s production of the Australian premiere is exquisite in all aspects, but especially in the casting and Matthew Marciniak’s simply stunning lighting design.
Marciniak uses his lighting to cleverly highlight various areas of Croser and David Roach’s well-dressed drawing room/mine shaft set; and combined with Croser’s well-honed eye for detail and suspense, gives the audience some very effective scary moments.
Croser has picked the cream of the crop to cast this play with. Angus Henderson and David Roach do well in their smallish roles; whilst young Heather McNab, playing the maid, exudes depth of character and shows promise in her career. As the parents of Edgar’s best friend, Lyn Wilson and Michael Eustice work extremely well together.
It is Alicia Zorkovic as Elizabeth Pritchard, Brant Eustice as Harold and Will Cox as Terence who are the standouts of this production – all three actors are superb. Zorkovic shows despondency and despair beautifully without ever delving into melodrama; with Eustice, reminding one of a young Laurence Olivier, showing how much can be achieved by stillness of movement and softness of voice, allowing his more explosive scenes to be all the more shocking.
Cox never ceases to impress with the depth of understanding expected from a more mature actor, but his performance here is sublime. Not only is he effective playing the young adventuring gentleman of twenty-two with his ‘modern’ ideas, but he manages to convince us that he is channelling the twelve year old Edgar. This is indeed top class acting.
The only niggle that this reviewer has with this marvellous production is the acting school technique of actor preparation at the start of each Act. The ‘fourth’ wall can indeed be broken, but not in a drama such as this. It just seems so unnecessary – actors should prepare backstage and in dressing rooms. If the play was Brechtian in style, one could understand but it is so incongruous with the rest of the production.
That gripe aside, Bracken Moor should not be missed. It is comparable to the best State Theatre productions.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Odeon Theatre, Queen Street, Norwood
Season: 14 – 22 November 2014
Duration: 2 hours 20 mins including interval
Tickets: $18.00 – $350.00
Bookings: Book online through the Independent Theatre website or tickets at the door if available.