The Chesil Theatre is not one to shy away from a challenge, and director Flavia Bateson rose to it with huge energy and imagination. From the start, our need to suspend disbelief big time was made clear, as we joined Richard Hannay in his valiant attempts to track down spies, flee police and avoid being murdered. Alec Walters was spot-on as the bemused but resolute, thoroughly British hero.
The unfortunate Pamela, unwillingly handcuffed to Hannay and dragged across the misty wilds of the Scottish Highlands, all the while bristling with fury and indignation, was portrayed with great elegance and humour by Julia Mantell. She also played a further two parts which left just two actors, Charlie Seligman and John Wakeman, to create the many remaining characters, changing hats and costumes at breakneck speed. All of this they managed with astonishing versatility and obvious enjoyment.
The simplicity of David Woodward’s set cleverly accommodated fast-changing locations, which were ingeniously represented by back-projection of Ian Fraser's superb, whimsical line drawings. For example, a remote, bleak Scottish moorland was perfectly captured in a simple outline of hills, and topped off with a few timely puffs from a smoke machine.
It may well have been tempting to hype up the action with overly dramatic music and sound effects, but not in the experienced hands of Tony Rogers. A scream-turned-train-whistle here, a wee Scottish jig there, and several versions of the famous Dick Barton signature tune, the Devil’s Gallop were just a few of well over a hundred sound cues which subtly enhanced the pace and humour of the play.
So, to answer the initial question: select four energetic, inventive actors, a skilled director, mix in some inspired sound, lighting and set design, and you have a production of which the Chesil Theatre should be mightily proud. Hats off to them all.