On its opening night on 2nd March, I was given the chance to attend the performance of ‘The Cat and the Canary’ at Richmond Theatre, presented by Bill Kenwright’s Classic Thriller Theatre Company. As a  black comedy and mysterious thriller written by John Willard, this play broke all records for its genre when it was first performed in 1922. During the original production in the 1920s, a rhyme was included in all of the programmes, pleading with the audience to keep the mystery of the play alive: “If you like this play please tell your friends;  But pray don’t tell them how it ends.” 


This play certainly lived up to its reputation, as it begins with a collection of different characters gathered at the remote Glenthorne Manor on Bodmin Moor, the play having been adapted to be set sometime in the early 1950s rather than its original 1920s setting, to hear the will of their rich relative, Mr West, read out at the stroke of midnight twenty years after his death. Both the characters and the audience all wait with baited breath to hear who will inherit his vast fortune, whilst exploring the complex dynamics each of the characters share between each other. But, very soon, the characters are informed of a dangerous “lunatic”, escaped from the nearby asylum, wandering the moors outside the house and searching for his next victims… Bill Kenwright and the actors certainly succeed in creating a play so rich with both tension and humour that it left the audience both laughing and on the edge of their seats, watching with suspense and sometimes fear throughout the whole night. 


Britt Ekland, most famously known for her role in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful women, stars as the enigmatic and often macabre housekeeper, Mrs Pleasant, who has lived alone in the large house since the death of her employer and friend, Mr West. Throughout the play, she succeeds in heightening the tension and drama for the characters, with her repeated insistence that “the evil is here”, much to the other characters’ dismay. 


A whole host of well-known actors and actresses also fill the cast, such as Coronation Street’s Tracy Shaw playing the role of Annabelle West, famous author and at the centre of the play’s love triangle.  Heartbeat’s Mark Jordan plays the role of Paul Jones, the comedic and lovable character whose clumsiness kept the audience in fits of laughter throughout the whole play. But the all-star cast didn’t finish there, with fantastic performances from Gary Webster, Marti Webb and Ben Nealon too. 


Overall, despite the play’s age, director Bill Kenwright has succeeded in creating a thrilling and enjoyable night for everyone in the audience, with a surprising twist at the end that left the audience with open mouths and satisfied delight long after the curtain closed. 


By Emily Parsons