I'm a huge fan of horror, everything from literature and movies, to videogames and theatre. It's an unfairly maligned genre and that's probably why when plays or movies with a horror element come to be marketed they are often euphemistically labelled as 'thrillers'.
Although billed as a 'thriller', it soon becomes clear to this horror enthusiast that 'The Croft' has been positively marinated in the influence of supernatural Celtic folklore, the classier elements of Hammer Horror, and even Grand Guignol.
In the first act, things begin to play out as a drama, with a young woman named Laura (Lucy Doyle) arriving at her family’s highland holiday cottage for a romantic weekend with her older lover Suzanne (Caroline Harker).
However, cracks in their relationship soon begin appearing as Suzanne quickly begins to miss her children and her home counties life. Then it becomes clear that Laura is seeking some sort of resolution with her choice of holiday venue.
The performances and the dialogue, by Ali Milles, are both beautifully observed, artfully treading that fine line between naturalistic and dramatic. Suzanne's middle-classness is revealed through her turn of phrase, it's "boutique" she says upon seeing the cottage for the first time.
It is the arrival of Drew Cain's caretaker David that brings the best, quintessential horror movie lines though, including, "some of us hold onto the old ways" and, "it's so hard to distinguish fact from fiction out here".
Although David essentially serves as a device to get Laura fixating on the past (his presence brings bad memories back for Laura, of her mother’s death and her resentment of her father), he is none the less, a fully realised character.
David's actions, like a lot of the characters in the play, aren't exactly beyond The story exists, for the most part, on three different timelines, and watching how the writer, director, and cast handles the transition between them is a pure joy. reproach but Drew Cain does an excellent job of creating a funny, sympathetic yet flawed character.
The story exists, for the most part, on three different timelines, and watching how the writer, director, and cast handles the transition between them is a pure joy. The gorgeously versatile set design by Adrian Linford further enhances this pleasure.
As well as the present, we also flit to the near past, in which Laura's mum is dealing with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and also to scenes from circa 1870. It is these scenes, set in a crofters cottage that used to stand on the same ground, that are the richest source of suspense and horror.
These scenes feature Gwen Taylor as a mysterious elderly woman who, much to the communities disgust, takes in a young girl who has just lost a child conceived out of wedlock. As Enid Gwen Tayor is a formidable presence delivering a masterclass in understated terror far removed from her glamorous roles in lighter fare like 'A Bit of a Do'.
As proceedings accelerate towards a denouement things take a slightly surrealist bent. We are not talking about Aronofsky's 'Mother!' levels of weirdness, but nonetheless, you are gonna want to put your thinking caps on.
This is underlined by some clever dual-role casting. The second parts that this versatile cast takes on often reveal something about other characters. Throughout all this the dialogue remains razor-sharp. After being accused by Chris Davey's lighting display captures the grim inkiness of the Scottish skyline, adding sumptuous Dario Argento reds to his palette as the tension builds. Laura of f*cking his way through the '70s while listening to Genesis her father corrects, "Ah, Ah, The Velvet Underground, give me some credit'.
Chris Davey's lighting display captures the grim inkiness of the Scottish skyline, adding sumptuous Dario Argento reds to his palette as the tension builds. Meanwhile, Max Pappenheim's stellar but unobtrusive score alternates between familiar fiddles and squarking seagulls and roiling synth soundscapes.
That's about as much as I can say without straying into spoiler territory. Call it a thriller, call it a horror, call it what you want, either way, it's two solid hours of expertly crafted suspense that keeps you guessing what's going to happen at every turn.
Perth Festival of the Arts has joined forces with its 2020 artists to create a 10-day online celebration to ‘celebrate the arts together'.
May 21st Thursday 2020
Dougie Maclean's new Perthshire festival this summer: Cardney Concerts.
March 18th Wednesday 2020
Party at The Park, the South Inch, 27th and 28th June, will feature fantastic live performances from The Charlatans and many more!
March 12th Thursday 2020