REVIEW: The Croft @ Darlington Hippodrome
Posted on February 13th 2020 by Whats on Northeast
Review by Amanda Tutin
Based on a true story, The Croft is set in the remote Scottish village of Coillie Ghille and spans across multiple timelines, leaping back and forth between the present day and the 1800’s. A supernatural story of love, self-discovery and secrets, it follows three woman who are entwined in the villages spooky history. Set when forced evictions were rife in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s, Enid (Gwen Taylor), the former dweller of the ramshackle cottage the story is set in, is the stubborn last resident in the village who refuses to move out. She takes in the Lairds pregnant daughter Eilene (Lucy Doyle) and from there odd happenings of chanting and hauntings begin. You’re then transported to early 2000’s where Ruth (Caroline Harker) and her husband Tom (Simon Roberts) live in the very same cottage. However, Ruth’s terminal illness and an affair with a local man create a turn of events that will continue to haunt their daughter any future occupiers. Finally, skipping to the present day and Ruth’s daughter Laura (also played by Doyle) returns to the cottage she remembers from being a child, still grieving her mother’s death and frantically holding onto memories. Joining Laura on her escape to Scotland is Suzanne (also played by Harker), Laura’s new lover who is tormented by her ongoing divorce, her teenage children and the lack of any mobile phone signal. Together they discover that there’s more to the remote cottage than just Laura’s memories.
The audience were met with a great set on stage of the rustic cottage beside the highland seas, complete with wave and seagull sounds. There were snippets of humour from David’s character (the local man tasked with looking after Laura) but otherwise it was a woven fabric of tension, grief and an optimism of new love that touched on the LGBTQ arena. I did like the use of the lighting which helped to focus on the paranormal activity in the cottage and the use of the crackling backing track when Laura and Suzanne were using the walkie talkie’s. Although the backing track was left on after the scene ended which impacted on the understanding of the speech in the following scene.
The shifting scenes between the past and the present were sometimes a little bit confusing, although the costume changes did help, but there were some awkward pauses when the audience weren’t quite sure whether to clap or not. The story, written by Ali Miles and directed by Philip Franks, felt like it was stuck somewhere between a drama and a supernatural ghost story. Like a ghostly apparition, it seemed to skirt between both, fitting into neither. For a small cast, the characters came together well and between them showcased strong female characters that touch upon some big themes; death and grief, sexuality and the otherworldly.
The Croft runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 February, 2020.