Theatre Royal stalwart Blair Plant pops up in Toast

Blair Plant, centre, with Giles Cooper and Katy Federman in Nigel Slater’s Toast. Picture: Piers Foley

ACTOR Blair Plant is touring for the first time in 20 years in Nigel Slater’s Toast. By a happy coincidence, the show brings him back to a theatre he knows very well, York Theatre Royal, from tomorrow.

He first worked on the stage crew 34 years ago while studying at York St John College (as the university was called then). 

“I’ve done regional theatre but only in one specific theatre, not touring,” says Blair. “Over the last six or seven years I’ve done a lot of work in the West End.

“Now I’ve changed agents for the first time in 15 years and my new agent said I’ve got to put myself about a bit more and perhaps take less comfortable jobs than the West End work I’ve been doing. Basically, to get out and get back on the road and be seen by more people.”

Toast has been adapted for the stage from food writer Nigel Slater’s book recounting his childhood and cooking ambitions. Blair knew “nothing at all” about the show and Slater’s life before the job came along, although they do have one thing in common: both come from Wolverhampton.

He plays Nigel Slater’s father, so when Slater watches the play, that understandably adds to Blair’s nervousness. “He had a complicated relationship with his father,” he says. “His father makes the children laugh and is a nice dad sometimes but then just flips and switches. You never know when that’s going to happen. He’s not a violent man but is unpredictable, short tempered”

Slater attended rehearsals. “He’s lovely. He baked a cake and brought it in for us,” recalls Blair.

Blair Plant, left, with Stefan Edwards, Giles Cooper, Samantha Hopkins and Katy Federman in Nigel Slater’s Toast, at York Theatre Royal from tomorrow. Picture: Piers Foley

Talking of things to eat, the actor is required to demonstrate how to eat a Walnut Whip at every performance, but don’t ask why! When you see the play, you will understand.

After eating so many in rehearsal, Blair “went off” Walnut Whips. A similar thing happened during his student days in York when he was an ice cream seller:  he swiftly stopped wanting to eat ice cream.

The York St John course that young Blair took was billed as “dance, drama, movement, film and television”. His ambition was to act, but his parents, who were funding him through university, preferred him to take an academic degree.

However, he saw working on the Theatre Royal stage crew during his student days as a means of gaining entry into theatre. 

He began as a follow-spot operator and LX technician before joining the stage crew. His break came when the touring company run by actors Kate O’Mara and Peter Woodward opened a show in York and the Theatre Royal stage crew built the set.

“I persuaded them to take me on tour with them as their touring carpenter. I did that for 13 weeks and touring all over the country was a wonderful experience,” he says. 

He was back at York when the same company asked if he would like to return as an acting assistant stage manager, an opportunity that enabled him to gain the all-important Equity union card. He toured with the company for four years, each time bringing a production to York, where he lived for 15 years after falling in love with the city during his student days.

Blair Plant, centre, with Giles Cooper and Samantha Hopkins. Picture: Pierce Foley

He can also claim some responsibility for Damian Cruden becoming artistic director at York Theatre Royal. Blair had been directed by the Scotsman in John Godber’s Bouncers at Hull Truck Theatre and suggested him to theatre bosses.  The rest, as they say, is history. Damian was artistic director for 22 years until he left earlier this year.

Blair worked with him several more times, including in The Railway Children at both Waterloo and King’s Cross venues over a four-year period. “Damian sent me the script before it went on at the Railway Museum in York. I’m terrible at lifting a story off the page and didn’t get it at all and said it wasn’t for me. I didn’t realise how immense the show was going to be,” he recalls.

When the award-winning production, which featured a real steam train, transferred to London, Blair wanted to be part of it. He spent four years playing first the dissident Russian intellectual, Mr Szczepansky, then the Father in York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of E. Nesbit’s book. “I really, really loved it. It was a really lovely job,” says Blair.

He names his most challenging role at York – and of his career – as Lenny in Alan Bleasdale’s comedy Having A Ball, where he had to strip on stage and perform a six-minute monologue totally naked. “That was difficult to do in the rehearsal room, but by the time we got on stage, I’d got over being naked and so had the other actors. It was the audience who had to get over it.”

The most fun he has had was in Bouncers. “The buzz from that gig – you couldn’t sleep until three in the morning because as an actor you are so high and very fit,” he says.

Now Blair is popping up in Toast on his latest return to York.

Nigel Slater’s Toast, York Theatre Royal, November 19 to 23, 7.30pm, plus 2pm, Thursday, and 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

By Raymond Crisp

REVIEW: When The Rain Stops Falling, Rigmarole Theatre Company ****

James Coldrick, left, Louise Henry, Adam Sowter, Stan Gaskell, Sally Mitcham, Beryl Nairn, Mick Liversidge, Maggie Smales and Florence Poskitt in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling. Picture: Michael J Oakes,

When The Rain Stops Falling, Rigmarole Theatre Company, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

WHEN will the rain stop falling, you may well be asking amid Yorkshire’s November floods, burst banks and Army assistance in Fishlake.

Bad news. The answer, in Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic play, is 2039, and by then much water will have passed under the bridge in the two hours’ traffic of 41 Monkgate’s stage.

This week’s Yorkshire premiere of When The Rain Stops Falling marks the debut of Rigmarole Theatre Company, a new York venture led by artistic director and designer Maggie Smales, who directed York Shakespeare Project’s award-winning all-female production of Henry V, set at a “Canary Girls” munitions factory in the First World War.

In other words, she has pedigree for interesting directorial choices, and Smales shows astute judgement again in picking Bovell’s multi-layered mystery, spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England and Australia, premiered in Adelaide 11 years ago.

Once described as a “poetic pretzel of a play”, it takes the form of an unbroken, non-linear staging of 22 scenes, in this case within the John Cooper Studio’s black-box design, with a back-wall montage of umbrellas, a drape of Aboriginal wall art, window frames and doorways painted white, ceiling lamps in different shades and a prominent fish mobile.

Within this framework, the cast of nine moves furniture on and off and occupants of rooms overlap as the years from 1969 to 2019 move backwards and forwards.

No money, no food, no shoes: Mick Liversidge as Gabriel York in When The Rain Stops Falling. Picture: Michael J Oakes

To help you work out who’s who, the one-sheet “programme” provides a pictorial family tree to distinguish between Gabriel and Gabriel and even a Gabrielle.

The play opens to the inevitable sound of falling rain…in the desert region of Alice Springs, Australia, in 2039, with Smales’s company standing in lines beneath umbrellas on the stage periphery and criss-crossing the floor in silent repetitive movements with soup bowls before making way for the first monologue by Mick Liversidge’s Gabriel York.

This drifting, eccentric wanderer is waiting for his long-estranged son, Andrew (Stan Gaskell), with no money, no socks and no food. As chance would have it, a fish suddenly falls out of the sky…manna from heaven in a play with downpours of biblical proportions.

Not till the end shall we see these two again, but as a lattice builds, fish, or more precisely, fish soup, will keep making an appearance, along with dining tables and references to rain in Bangladesh. This adds splashes of dark humour to the otherwise claustrophobically black, stormy days of betrayal, abandonment and destruction that unfold against a backdrop of climate change.

Bovell first heads back to a London flat in 1969, where we meet Gabriel York’s grandparents, James Coldrick’s Henry Law and Florence Poskitt’s Elizabeth, in younger days, their relationship problems heightened by the arrival of son Gabriel. Elizabeth is encountered again in 1988, still in the same flat, even more buttoned up, Gabriel (Adam Sowter) frustrated at her still declining to reveal why his father suddenly disappeared when he was only seven.

Sally Mitcham. left, and Louise Henry in When The Rain Stops Falling. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Sowter’s Gabriel duly heads to Australia to put the missing pieces together, whereupon he encounters a troubled roadhouse waitress in Coorong, Gabrielle York (Louise Henry, soon to play Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House).

Tragedy has struck her not once, but thrice, but you should see the play to find out how and why, as we learn still more from older Gabrielle (Sally Mitcham) and stoical husband Joe Ryan (Maggie Smales).

Smales chose Bovell’s poetic allegory ­- full of Australian culture, Greek myth, English awkwardness, French philosophy and meteorological turmoil – because it  addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children or can we change to save ourselves?

Ultimately, in a prophetic play heavy with the weight of legacy and inheritance, Bovell calls on us to change before it is too late. Smales’s excellent cast, so skilled at storytelling and largely at Aussie accents too, certainly makes the case for him.

In the words of the director, “If you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is the one to see.”

You are also assured of a warmer welcome than Boris Johnson in sodden South Yorkshire this week. Among the drinks that the convivial bar is serving is…water, naturally.

Charles Hutchinson

REVIEW: The Woman In Black, York Theatre Royal *****

“Scream the house down for a ticket” to see Daniel Easton, left, and Robert Goodale in The Woman In Black. Picture: Tristram Kenton

REVIEW: The Woman In Black, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

AFTER terrifying visits in 2013 and 2014, York Theatre Royal has gone back to Black for a wintry chill in 2019. Scream the house down for a ticket; this ghost story is still the best in the fright night business, although Gaslighting and the Grand Opera House-bound revival of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories are guaranteed to scare you witless too.

Stephen Mallatratt’s splendidly theatrical stage adaptation began life as a bonus Christmas show at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1987 in novelist Susan Hill’s hometown of Scarborough, and this latest touring production still retains its original director and designer, Robin Herford and Michael Holt. Well, if it ain’t broke, etc etc.

It is an old-fashioned piece, but delightfully so, with no hi-tech special effects. Instead, the programme states “harmless stage smoke and sudden loud effects are used in this production”. What matters is how they are used: the smoke gradually envelops you in a disorientating murk; the sound effects go off all around you, whether the approach of a horse’s hooves or jolting, silence-shattering screams. Cue shrieks, gasps and nervous audience laughter that ripple outwards through the stalls to the dress circle in waves.

The horror, the horror: Daniel Easton as The Actor, increasingly haunted, just like the audience, in The Woman In Black. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Mallatratt’s two-hander begins in a dusty theatre as elderly lawyer Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale) employs a young actor (Daniel Easton) to help him exorcise the fear that has filled his soul for more than 50 years. “For my health, my reason,” he says, “It must be told. I cannot bear the burden any longer.”

That burden is a stultifying obsession with the curse that he believes a spectral woman in a black cape with a wasted face has placed on his family. The Actor is initially sceptical, his mood light and cocky, yet the depth of Kipps’s desire to recover his peace of mind starts to grip the thespian too, and in turn the audience…whether a newcomer or a returnee glutton for more spine shivers.

The terrifying tale with the terrible toll is told in a theatrical re-enactment rendered with only two chairs, a skip of papers, a hanging rail of costume props, dust sheets over the stage apron and a frayed curtain.

Behind this gauze partition are the stairwell, passages, rooms and contents of the haunted Eel Marsh House, as the Actor plays young Arthur Kipps and stage novice Mr Kipps adapts himself to all manner of other parts, while growing ever more paralysed by resurgent fears as the story unfolds of his ill-fated errand as a young solicitor.

“A celebration of the craft of acting”: Daniel Easton in The Woman In Black. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Sebastian Frost’s restless sound effects align with Kevin Sleep’s lighting design, where shadows and darkness wrestle with light for dominance, as Easton and Goodale re-create Kipps’s flesh-creeping journey to the eerie marshlands: an isolated place forever at odds with its wretched self.

As much as The Woman In Black is a ghost story first and foremost, in Mallatratt’s hands, it is also a celebration of the craft of acting, the power of storytelling and the role of the imagination.

Designed as a play within a play, the drama within takes over from the act of making it. You never see the horse and cart or a dog called Spider, but you feel their presence and you rise to applaud Easton and Goodale for having you wholly in their grip, as Hertford’s direction steers this eerie ghost ride with grave concern but dark humour too.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Copyright of The Press, York

What is the “most important question of our time”? Andrew Bovell’s play has the answer…

Director Maggie Smales in the role of Joe Ryan on the preview night of When The Rain Stops Falling. Picture: Michael J Oakes

YORK director and designer Maggie Smales is reviving a theatre company name from her Seventies’ student days to present Andrew Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling, a multi-layered mystery spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England and Australia.

Smales chose this apocalyptic story of betrayal, abandonment and destruction for Rigmarole Theatre Company’s debut venture because it addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children?

Ahead of this Yorkshire premiere opening at 41 Monkgate, tomorrow (November 14), Maggie answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions.

What prompted you to set up a theatre company now, Maggie?

“We’re lucky to have a lot of heritage theatre and musicals here in York. While that is wonderful, for both performers and audiences, I feel it’s important that there is contemporary work on offer.

“There’s such a lot of great work that offers a more direct connection to our lives today. TV dramas are often fantastic, but I don’t think you can beat live drama where the audience is in the room with the events playing out before them.”

Why make the link with your student past by reviving the name Rigmarole? 

“A bit frivolous, I suppose, but it is somewhat in the spirit of sustainability and re-use, which are part of Rigmarole’s ideals.

“Also, I’m constantly reminded while I work, whether directing or acting, that I’m still a student, and long may that last!

Why did you choose this play for your launch production? 

“Taking on a directing task is a large job, so when I take it on, it has to be for a text or project that matters to me.

“This play deals with the most pressing question of our times. Can we change to save ourselves? A question that is played out through the narratives of characters in the play and set in the context of a climate that’s changing and threatening our very existence.

“That sounds heavy, but like other great plays, it just uses great storytelling. I was completely blown away by it.

“Furthermore, it’s a play that offers fantastic opportunities for actors. It’s beautifully crafted and has a deliciously poetic text. As a director, it has a canvas that spans the globe and 80 years of time, so it offers the fantastic challenge of realising it all within a simple black box.”

Rigmarole Theatre Company’s cast for When The Rain Stops Falling: James Coldrick, left, Louise Henry, Adam Sowter, Stan Gaskell, Sally Mitcham, Beryl Nairn, Mick Liversidge, Maggie Smales and Florence Poskitt. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Where did you come across this play? Have you seen it?

“I haven’t seen it, but I read it before seeing Andrew Bovell’s other well-known piece, Things I Know To Be True, which he wrote for Frantic Assembly.

“His adaptation of The Secret River by Kate Grenville was recently at the Edinburgh Festival and at the National Theatre. I went to see it and was captivated by the way he uses personal narrative to convey the story of a nation and the crimes at the very heart of its growth.”

What resonates most with you about this play?

“Something that has emerged as an increasingly important feature is that of legacy and inheritance: that we live among the presence of our ancestors but also with them inside our hearts. This is something maybe the Australian aborigines understand much better than us.”

What do you read into the title?

“With the weather we’ve been having lately it’s become a bit of a sore point really! Or spookily prophetic.

“Our story as humans is of carrying on, of finding a way forward and sometimes of bearing the burden of our own and others’ crimes. The final year of the play is set at the brink of our possible extinction and leaves us wondering if we always will ‘carry on’.”

Do you believe we can change, as Bovell’s play calls on us to do?

“I don’t think we do change. I think it is more in our DNA to ‘carry on’ and adapt our behaviour to suit the demands around us as we find them.

“Our current crisis shows that some of us are more prepared to adapt sooner rather than later. Put differently, there are various types of self-interest at work in humankind, but I’m fairly optimistic because there’s a lot of goodness in most people.”

Have you had any discussions with Andrew Bovell?

“We’ve been in touch through his agent and received a fantastic and insightful reply regarding the recent development banning the ascents of Uluru. Such a climb is featured in the play but why a ‘fair-skinned Englishman’ went there in search of his father is something you’d have to come and find out!

“The play has been performed all around the world but this its first appearance in Yorkshire and he wished us good luck.

“Bovell uses Australian culture, Greek myth, French philosophy and meteorological events in history to create a powerful allegory, which can be appreciated as both high opera and as accessible soap opera.”

And finally, why should we see When The Rain Stops Falling?

“If you like to be moved by what you see, if you like to see a mystery unfold as the puzzle pieces come together, if you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is one to see.”

Rigmarole Theatre Company presents When the Rain Stops Falling, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, November 14 to 16, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal box office in person.

REVIEW: The Boy Who Cried Wolf, York Theatre Royal Studio

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Tutti Frutti/York Theatre Royal, at York Theatre Royal Studio, September 26 to October 12

RAIN, rain, rain, the River Ouse is in flood, but the weather is even worse at York Theatre Royal, where snow is falling and Tutti Frutti’s actors are covered from head to toe in wool.

Five years ago to the autumnal month, Leeds company Tutti Frutti first staged York playwright Mike Kenny’s re-spinning of Aesop’s wintery old yarn in new patterns and shades, as favoured by the contestants in the annual jumper-knitting competition that opens and closes this one-act show for three year olds and upwards.

Designer Hannah Sibai has cloaked the Studio stage in white, from the floor to the tree branches, set in place in upturned spools and wrapped in wool; from the lit-up miniature village houses at the front to the snow-peaked mountains that form the backdrop.

Colour comes from the suffusion of old-fashioned/Scandi-noir knitted clothing, scarves and hats worn by actor-musicians Alex Wingfield, Florence Russell and Guido Garcia Lueches, who add yet more woolly headgear when playing grouchy, unruly, hip-hop dancing sheep.

The play’s title carries a moralising tone, but Kenny, himself a father, prefers to encourage children to take on responsibility, rather than wave a scalding finger in their direction, in a story set over three winters in a bleak sheep-farming community.

Grandad (Garcia Lueches) now lacks the energy and spryness to guard the family’s flock from the predatory wolves high up in the mountains, handing over the duty to his grandson Silas (Wingfield), a very reluctant “bother of a boy”. “Everywhere, sheep, just sheep,” he bemoans. Not yet ten years old, he is far from thrilled by the honour of keeping his village safe as he quickly tires of the sheep’s irritating stubborn streak and decides to end his solitary sanctuary by lying that a wolf is in his midst. He will do so again the next winter, but each time his Mum (Russell) and Grandad caution him that “no-one trusts a liar, even when they’re telling the truth”. Only this way will he learn that he cannot pull the wool over their eyes.

Significantly, however, Kenny makes a point of Silas insisting he is not a “bad boy but occasionally does bad things”. Just give him time to grow up, embrace his responsibilities and even find his inner wolf.

Director Wendy Harris plays to Kenny’s storytelling strengths, bolstered by Dom Sales’s deeply daft folk songs, played on mandolin, guitar, flute, saxophone and cor anglais, in an enchanting, amusing and ever so slightly scary show when Joanne Bernard’s movement direction and the suitably named Mike Redley’s red lighting transform the cast into the prowling, sometimes howling wolves.

Kenny’s curmudgeonly but highly humorous sheep, with their bleating dialogue and wool-is-cool teenage demeanour, go down particularly well, providing the most fun for both the audience and the cast, who knit together so successfully they deserve to win the village jumper comp.

Cheeky of face, funny of expression, Wingfield captures the easily bored yet adventure-craving essence of Silas; ably backed up by Garcia Lueches’s wise, kindly Grandad and Russell’s often exasperated, always-knitting Mum.

Sheep fans, young mums and their lambs should escape the rain, embrace the snow and flock to this winter winner.

Charles Hutchinson

Review copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Go-go-go Joseph: Jaymi Hensley in Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grand Opera House, York, October 1 to 5

SUCH is the abiding popularity of this Dream of a show 46 years after its London debut that Bill Kenwright’s touring production can complete a week in York with two shows on Friday and three on Saturday.

Only Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – raving on yet again next March – rivals the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber biblical musical for returns to the Grand Opera House. This decade alone, Lee Mead swished Joseph’s multicoloured garment all around him in 2010; Keith Jack in 2012; Joe McElderry in 2016. Now is the turn of Jaymi Hensley, formerly one of the three Js in the pop-up X Factor boy band Union J, but also trained in musical theatre at the BRIT School, the London maker of stars.

Hensley is not the tallest – he is 5ft 8 – and like Any Dream Will Do’s Keith Jack, he plays Joseph the dreamer more as an innocent abroad, albeit with a twinkle in his eye whenever he takes in the audience’s gaze, rather than with the square-jawed, noble muscularity of Lee Mead.

It works well for Hensley in a show that is never shy of playing an old favourite with a knowing campness, especially among Joseph’s team of 11 brothers. Up pops a model of the Eiffel Tower, for example, when they sing the sad chanson Those Canaan Days, berets, Breton stripes, accordion, exaggerated French accents et al. Look out too for the deep-voiced camel cameo and the blow-up sheep that appear as if from nowhere.

Away from the harmony strictures of a boy band, Hensley sings like a dream, with power, drama, sweetness, range, whatever is demanded, and Any Dream Will Do and especially Close Every Door wholly suit him.

Alexandra Doar’s busy, busy Narrator and Amber Kennedy’s Tina Turner-style Mrs Potiphar are in good form too, while Andrew Geater’s Las Vegas Elvis pastiche for Pharaoh’s Song Of The KIng is a whole hunk of burning love. What’s more, since the 2007 London production, Pharaoh is given a second song, King Of My Heart, to show off another (crooning) side of Elvis’s singing. Thank you very much.

What’s new for 2019, Jaymi Hensley aside? Pop choreographer Gary Lloyd has come on board to pump up the dancing to dynamic effect. Meanwhile, of York interest, the show’s designer is Sean Cavanagh, artistic associate of Riding Lights, whose Friargate Theatre home he designed in 2000. Egypt looks a picture: one more reason to go, go, go to Joseph.

Review copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: Monster Makers, Pick Me Up Theatre

Picture by Matthew Kitchen of Pick Me Up Theatre's Monster Makers

SHOCK! HORROR! Darren Lumby left, Alan Park, Emma Louise Dickinson, Tony Froud and Andrew Isherwood in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Monster Makers

Monster Makers, Pick Me Up Theatre, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, October 23 to 26

“THEY did such a good job with Thrill Me, I knew that this was the company I wanted to premiere Monster Makers in the UK,” said writer-composer Stephen Dolginoff.

Pick Me Up Theatre staged the New Yorker’s murder musical two-hander in January 2018 at York Medical Society.

Now they darken the doors of the John Cooper Studio with a “triple feature horror show”, and once more it is a job well done by Mark Hird’s multi-role-playing cast of five, Andrew Isherwood, Alan Park, Darren Lumby, Tony Froud and Emma Louise Dickinson.

Designer Robert Readman has turned the black-box studio side on, with seating on an angle to the left and right and on the mezzanine level above, from where musical director Sam Johnson surveys all from his keyboard.Entrances on to a black-painted, revolving stage are made through a seemingly tight side door, adding to the sense of suspense or surprise as to who might enter next.

Dolginoff tells three “monstrously true” horror stories behind the making of landmark horror films through a combination of often witty dialogue, B-movie exaggeration and storytelling, emotional songs.

First up, German director FW Murnau (Isherwood) must face Bram Stoker’s furious widow, Florence (Dickinson), in court as she accuses him of stealing Dracula for 1922’s Nosferatu, with lead actor Max Shreck (Froud) showing a moral decency beyond the shifty “THEY did such a good job with Thrill Me, I knew that this was the company I wanted to premiere Monster Makers in the UK,” said writer-composer Stephen Dolginoff.

Next, maverick make-up artist Jack Pierce (Lumby) comes up against autocratic director James Whale (Isherwood) as he strives to convert Boris Karloff (Froud) into Frankenstein’s Monster.

Lastly, Peter Cushing (Froud) knocks the final nails into Hammer Horror’s coffin, making a Frankenstein and Dracula film simultaneously with a paltry budget, an unflappable director (Isherwood’s Terence Fisher], a scene-stealing stuntman (Lumby), doubling stoically and silently for the absent Christopher Lee, and the ever-willing, busty Victoria (Dickinson).

Isherwood’s trio of roles is the stand-out, Froud’s urbane Cushing is a joy too, while Dickinson, Park and Lumby add to the gothic, graveyard humour of this monster smash.

Charles Hutchinson

Review copyright of The Press, York