A review by Leila Sellars for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Snake in the Grass


by Alan Ayckbourne



Director - Lucy Bailey

The Print Room


9 February – 5 March 2011

Now extended until March 12th



Snake in the Grass, a relatively unknown play by Alan Ayckbourne, receives its London Premiere in a hugely entertaining production by Lucy Bailey, Artistic Director of The Print Room.

The play, described by Ayckbourne as ‘a ghost story’, centres around two sisters reuniting over the death of their father. Things begin to take a sinister turn when they are interrupted by Alice - their father’s nurse - whose shocking allegations lead to dramatic actions on the part of the two women. As the story unravels, the sisters grow introspective, dwelling on their shared history and blurring the lines of morality and indeed reality, until the piece takes a seemingly chilling turn and they are revisited by ghosts from their pasts.

The production is almost flawless from start to finish. Designed by the superb William Dudley (most recently well known for All My Sons, starring David Suchet in the West End), the set – a disused, overgrown tennis court, complete with rusting fences, tangled net and uneven moss covered ground, oozes atmosphere and almost seems to breathe with life. The overgrown garden seethes with intent and aptly mirrors the sinister nature of the events that unfold within it.

This is a beautifully directed piece, with Bailey’s seamless direction doing justice to the wit and grace of Ayckbourne’s writing. The play’s many layers and twists are executed with skill and sensitivity and hold the audience captivated throughout. It is rare that a play delivers on so many levels and it is a testament to this production that it finds a near perfect balance between light and dark, treading the line between the sinister and the strangely ridiculous.

Sarah Woodward as the downtrodden Miriam is truly sensational. Woodward flits between quiet desperation and steely resolve, which lends a level of excitement and depth to her performance, and as the play progresses she is increasingly compelling.  Woodward bravely, nearly underplays her role, throwing away the comic lines (getting all the bigger laughs for it), slowly unravelling the layers of her character. The brash and vulgar Alice is also well played by Mossie Smith, whose humour and sense of physical comedy is really very funny. Susan Wooldridge as Annabel seemingly gives a rather uneven performance, at times lacking in subtlety which tends to feel rather forced and superficial. However, as her character develops throughout the play, Woodbridge’s skill as an actor becomes apparent, and she ultimately plays her part convincingly.

As a whole this production is beautifully coordinated, with both Richard Howells lighting design and Neil Alexander’s sound beautifully complimenting the atmosphere created by set designer Dudley. These align perfectly with Bailey’s subtle vision, which has moments of being genuinely chilling as well as oddly humorous and moving by degrees.

This is Bailey’s second production for the newly opened Print Room and judging by this play it will soon gain a well - deserved place amongst London’s most important theatres.


Box Office:  08444 77 1000
The Print Room
34 Hereford Road
W2 5AJ



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