WASHINGTON Irving’s famous Gothic tale about the dark goings-on at Sleepy Hollow, a Dutch settlement north of Tarrytown (later New York), has provided rich inspiration for theatre and film makers over the years since 1820 when it was written, in Birmingham.
Now Tilted Wig has take up the artistic baton, commissioning an inventive new adaptation of the story from Philip Meeks.
Created for six performers and directed by Jake Smith, this version plays with your fears and superstitions as well as with time, light, sound and perception.
It stars the versatile and compelling Wendi Peters as the Widow Papenfuss, using every ounce of her charm, menace, humour and duplicity to entrap the visiting Ichabod Crane. With her Corrie co-star Bill Ward as the Sleepy Hollow big man, she weaves stories of blood snarks, churls and even the terrifying Wendigo. The winds speak, the birds warn and the beams threaten as Crane plots a romantic abduction in the guise of a merciful intervention.
Nothing is what it seems in Sleepy Hollow, a community which has been together for decades, or maybe centuries, and there’s no holding back in this spine-chilling production. The hoofbeats that presage the arrival of the headless horseman are never far away.
You might have seen Sam Jackson in Skins, and now he is visiting teacher Ichabod Crane, a man with his own story to hide. Lewis Cope is Brom van Brunt, Crane’s rival in love … or is he? Rose Quentin (you might recognise the face) is the tempting Katrina, with Tommy Sim’aan as Joost de Groot.
The production cleverly weaves a powerful soundscape with evocative lighting, imaginative movement and looming shadowplay, all adding to the acceleration of the inevitable outcome. And there’s a clever ending which clearly threw some of the Southampton audience.
Moving from theatre to theatre, there will inevitably be minor sound balance issues in such a complicated show, but it’s a real chiller, powerfully performed.
Tilted Wig was formed by Matthew Parish and Katherine Senior, and grew out of the Devon-based Creative Cow. It has joined up with Malvern Theatres and the Churchill Theatre, Bromley for the production, which opened in September at Bromley. Southampton’s MAST (Mayflower Studio), is the third date, and the tour continues in 2021 at Guildford, Oldham, Malvern, Edinburgh, Darlington, Eastbourne and Southend.
Next year the show comes south again, stopping at Salisbury Playhouse and Exeter Northcott, as well as Cardiff, Inverness, Theatr Clywd, Ipswich and Crewe, and back to Malvern.