'Jamaica Inn' At The Tabard Theatre Is Gothic Hokum At Its Finest
Terrific, atmospheric retelling of the Daphne du Maurier classic says Penny Flood
This is a terrific adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Victorian melodrama of skulduggery on Bodmin Moor, as a defenceless maiden confronts unspeakable evil with horrors round every corner. It's witty, Gothic hokum at its finest, with bags of atmosphere courtesy of a hyperactive mist making machine.
There are even a few songs to move the plot along.
Jamaica Inn is a real place that has been associated with smuggling since the eighteenth century. I stopped there for a quick drink many years ago, before it was gussied up to become the hotel advertised in the programme. It was a bleak ugly building, standing alone on Bodmin Moor miles from anywhere, probably looking pretty much the same as when Ms du Maurier pitched up there and got the idea for this story.
One night, in the middle of winter, orphan Mary Yellan (Kimberley Jarvis), leaves her lovely home in Helston and arrives at Jamaica Inn to stay with her Aunt Patience (Helen Bang), and it doesn't take her long to realise that something is terribly wrong. Her frail, nervous aunt has been worn down by years of ill treatment at the hands of her drunken bully of a husband Joss. Toby Wynn-Davies is terrific in the role, a pantomime villain for grown ups snarling and bellowing, and quaffing copious amounts of brandy, surrounded by a bunch of louts, with none too honourable ideas about the little newcomer.
Clever use of props makes the most of the space, the bedrooms are two high stools, where Mary, when she's not working behind the bar or getting lost on the moor, spends time pondering the mystery of why nobody ever stops at Jamaica Inn. And that's not all: what are the strange noises in the night, what’s in the locked room and why are there bars on the windows?
In a very short time Mary decides to flee Jamaica Inn, go home and take her aunt with her, but with low life at every turn, corruption in high places and Bodmin Moor to cross, how can she hope to achieve it?
Throw in a creepy vicar (Peter Rae), a handsome horse thief (Samuel Lawrence)
and Christmas Eve at the Launceston Christmas Fair and things hot up.
The whole production is brilliant: the cast, the design, the lighting, the music - everything, especially Anastasia Revi's direction. With all this melodrama it would be easy for things to slip into farce and become rather silly, but it doesn't. It's slick and tightly controlled right to the end. All in all, it's a very entertaining 90 minutes.
It's on till the 2nd December and you'll kick yourself if you miss it.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, adapted by Lisa Evans, directed by Anastasia Revi.
November 16, 2017