The Cat and the Canary, Yeovil Octagon and touring

THE Classic Thrills Company tour of The Cat and the Canary is a large scale production, filling the stage with big furniture and sets – a taste of things to come at Yeovil Octagon, which closes next year for a major refurbishment.

John Willard’s original, which has spawned numerous film and theatre adaptation, gets a new version from Carl Grose, best known locally for his work with Kneehigh, who has always had a soft spot for Grand Guignol. It was encouraging to see so many people in the audience for what is a creaky old story packed with fun and twists.  No cliché is left unturned.

It’s midnight on a dark and stormy night. Its setting is a remote house on the windswept moors, which are also home to a lunatic asylum. The protagonists are an old family solicitor, a faithful old retainer and group of potential heirs to a massive fortune which includes a priceless (and, of course, lost) necklace.

So all the ingredients are in place for an evening of spooks, red herrings, threats, revelations and … murders. By the end of the show you may very well be confused as to who done what to whom, but director Roy Marsden and writer Grose make sure there’s a chilling moment to send you out into the night.

Britt Ekland plays the frosty Mrs Pleasant. Even after decades in the UK, her accent is still strong enough to assure the designers of the new Octagon auditorium that something needs to be done about the acoustics. Eric Carte is the solicitor, quite at home in the dusty library of his late friend, who died 20 years ago to the very night …

The would-be beneficiaries are Tracy Shaw, giving a very modern performance as Annabelle, her cousins Charlie the actor (a suave Ben Nealon), Harry the boxer (a rough diamond Gary Webster) and Paul the nervy vet ( Antony Costa). Then there is aunt Susan (Marti Webb) and her niece Princess Cicily ( Priyasasha Kumari).  It’s all so complicated that I can’t quite remember which of them was in cahoots with which, but it was all very entertaining, and I shall be able to see it again without knowing the answer …  except was it that escaped lunatic?


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