Review: The Wicked Lady at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School by Gerry Parker (8/10)
IT is the hugely popular 1945 film starring Margaret Lockwood and James Mason rather than Michael Winner's feeble attempt to remake it 38 years later with Faye Dunaway and Alan Bates in the leading roles that comes into people's minds when you mention The Wicked Lady.
Director Sue Wilson brought her fertile imagination to bear on that Margaret Lockwood film, which grossed the enormous amount for the 1940s of nearly £18.5 million and came up with a fine mixture of tongue- in-cheek "send up" and reality.
The show starts off in the right venue with the cast dressed in clown- like costumes performing circus skills. These and excellent tumbling skills were to be used later to equally good effect as Nina Logue's Lady Barbara Skelton, a truly wicked lady, and Gareth Tempest's dashing highwayman Capt Jerry Jackson went sailing through the air on their imaginary galloping horses.
During those frivolous opening scenes, and occasionally afterwards, the production could easily have slipped into undisciplined farce, which would have made it difficult to change tack towards the powerful drama yet to come. With the strong hand of Sue Wilson on the tiller to guide the production through Rosanna Vize's wonderfully inventive set designs, this was never going to happen.
Amongst those who comfortably made the transition from comedy to drama was Alec Fellows-Bennett, as Barbara's dull husband Sir Ralph, Abigail Moore as his suspicious sister Paulina, James Keningale's careful study of the doomed trusted old retainer Hogarth, and Christopher McKay as the ghostly dead young farmer Ned Cotterell.