Mystery at Blackwater

by Dan Sutherland

25th – 27th October 1979

Based on the novel The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins in which Walter Hartright, a young art teacher, is walking from Hampstead to London. He meets a mysterious woman dressed in white, apparently in deep distress. He helps her on her way to London but later learns that she has escaped from an asylum…

blackwater prog

The Cast

Walter Hartright: Nick Roberts
Anne Catherick: Sue Roberts
The Doctor: John Sanford
Marion Halcombe (half-sister to Laura): Elizabeth Saxton
Mrs. Michelson (the housekeeper): Celia Bartholomew
Alice (the housemaid): Julia Evans
Laura Glyde: Janet Booth
Sir Percival Glyde (her husband): Peter Monger
Count Fosco: Rob Bell
Madame Fosco: Mary Warrington
Mrs Catherick: Pauline Mordue

Produced by Eric Saxton

Newbury Weekly News review

Play has a very big cast

The mid-Victorian era seems to be an excellent time in which to set a play of suspense, and Dan Sutherland’s Mystery at Blackwater is certainly full of suspense and, indeed, mystery.

After a rather shaky start and an unusual amount of prompting (for them) on the first night, Compton Players got well into their stride with a presentation of this excellent adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ famous novel. The play itself followed the plot of the book, though at times the dialogue was a little out of key… “Have a sherry” has too modern a ring, and the corniest lines ever must be “I won’t stay here to be insulted”, only to be followed by “Where can we find you?”

With the largest cast of any play they have produced in recent years, Mystery at Blackwater engaged the entire company, for those who were not in the cast were very busily engaged behind the scenes or looking after ‘front of house.’ The cast too involved not only the very experienced players, but also newcomers to the company, both with and without previous experience of amateur dramatics.

A welcome addition to the company is Rob Bell, who was silky-smooth and sinister in his portrayal of Count Fosco, the brains behind a remarkable and almost successful piece of fraud, which made use of the remarkable physical resemblances between Laura Glyde and a poor and feeble woman, Anne Catherick. Mary Warrington, who has been in almost every Compton Players’ production for several years, gave a very restrained and dignified performance as Madame Fosco.

Janet Booth gave a polished performance as Laura, whose undoubtedly cruel and scheming husband Sir Percival Glyde was fiendishly plotting to wrest her money from her. Peter Monger – for once a villain – was suitably irascible in this unaccustomed role.

The unhappy Anne Catherick – the ‘woman in white’ of the original novel – was played by Sue Roberts, and Nick Roberts played the hero Walter Hartwright, whose unexpected encounter with Anne as she escaped from a mental asylum, led him to search out his beloved Laura to ensure her safety and welfare.

Happily they had on their side the indomitable Marion Halcombe, Laura’s half-sister, and in this role Elizabeth Saxton again showed her undoubted acting talent.

Pauline Mordue as the enigmatic Mrs Catherick, Celia Batholomew as the housekeeper, Julia Evans as the gossipy maid, and John Sanford as a doctor, made up the rest of the cast.

Eric Saxton was producer, and again was responsible for the sets. Although the first scene takes less than five minutes, it required a whole set to itself, and later, for the drawing-room scene at Blackwater Park, Mr Saxton painted some 24 fet of books on shelves! The dark panelling of this set made it somehow more sinister still. Oil lamps completed the scene.

The suspense was well maintained and this was an enjoyable production.