Whistle and I’ll Come To You! – Rumpus Theatre Company at the Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs
It’s a suitably dark and atmospheric evening as we descend to Broadstairs in Kent, once home to Charles Dickens, to catch what has to be one of the most highly revered stage adaptations of a ghost story we’ve heard about of late. The setting, the Sarah Thorne Theatre, in a town by the sea the setting could be more apt for a tale of a Cambridge professor venturing to stay by the sea and inadvertently unleashing an ancient spirit via the means of a mysterious whistle.
On arrival we’re warmly welcomed into the impressive theatre space. The theatre, named after the Actress Sarah Thorne, (once theatre manager of the Theatre Royal Margate) is stunning, a smaller venue which offers a more intimate setting for the performance. Though never at all feeling claustrophobic. We’re told the building is owned and maintained by Kent County Council and used regularly by Kent Adult Education for classes. Offering a fantastic space for the community. Audio and lighting is also particularly impressive for a theatre of its size. Theatre producer (and founder of the Sarah Throne Theatre Company) Michael Wheatley-Ward is extremely warm and welcoming, clearly taking pride in the wonderful venue which could not be better suited for a ghost story by the sea. Whilst for theatres this time remains extremely unsettled amidst Covid, it’s still great to see such a large turnout for the play and we settle in to our seats for what we hope to be a chilling performance.
The story, adapted by Mlle Henson of Rumpus Theatre Company, does a remarkable job in taking James’ original text and giving it a modernised twist. Quite often a move which can unravel the original source material. But instead by centring the action around a female version of Professor Parkins who attempts to escape her college life with a small break on the coast, a whole new story plays out amidst the framework of Jame’s original tale. It would also be fair to say Parkins brings along her own ‘ghosts’ for the visit which really do help to give the story a new angle.
Susan Earnshaw is fantastic as Professor Parkins, the troubled protagonist at the centre of the tale, offering a real depth to James’ original character. Whilst John Goodrum is superb as the variety of supporting characters from Professor Rogers to Charlie, bringing each to life convincingly.
The balance of chills is also neatly balanced against the drama, never feeling heavily weighted at either end. The use of mix media such as a projector and some unsettling sound effects really to add to the tension and make for a far more unsettling performance than you might expect.
Without wanting to spoil the action there’s a host of surprises in there, even for the most ardant James fan. There’s also a couple of truly unsettling moments which will certainly send shivers up your spine. With not many dates remaining on the ‘Whistle’ tour I highly encourage you to go seek it out.
Also for a range of fantastic performances in Kent the Sarah Thorne Theatre is an absolutely essential visit for any fan of the stage.