The Evacuee Theatre Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Written and directed by Ian Breeds
Produced by Quint-Essential Theatre Company
Maria Victoria Euegenio as Janet
Mike Evans as George
Sarah Tyler Shaw as Brenda
Written and directed by Ian Breeds as the last in a trio of horror plays entitled Dark Tales, The Evacuee is set during WW2 and tells the story of Janet (Maria Victoria Euegenio), a young girl evacuated out of London and placed at the home of disobliging widower George (Mike Evans). Despite regular visits from the town's billeting officer Brenda (Sarah Tyler Shaw), Janet struggles to fit in, and bumps in the night lead her to the discovery of a dark past that still lingers in the house.
An hour long and with a cast of only three, Breeds' WW2 ghost tale is an intimate production which spooks and chills from the very entrance into Chelsea Theatre's auditorium. Battling a hazy smoke and the sound of explosive bombs to find your seat, the immersive environment couldn't be more effective in making you a vulnerable subject to Breeds' scares - especially when you nervously take up a front row seat.
The Evacuee has come a long way since its birth as a short play, which Breeds says was aimed to scare the audience and make them feel compassion for Janet. As a full length production, it certainly excels in both communications. Lights flicker, radios turn on, and drawers and chairs move by their own accord - not to mention the scenes of human possession and one of the most truly frightening moments in theatre I have ever witnessed. All of the classic contraptions of haunted house stories are present. The lighting is superb at highlighting movement between different rooms in the static stage of the house, and transitioning moments of total darkness keep you squinting in terror and anticipation.
Janet, an innocent and scared child whose traumatic war experiences and losses have found her literally lost for words, is enough to draw pity from anyone, and Eugenio does wonders to confirm the heartbreak. But what justifies Breeds decision to extend his play is the intermittent gradual building of George and Brenda's intriguing history and rekindling relationship. Context and backstory instil tension and guesswork, while giving the audience a breather from jump scares.
The character of George, a broken man riddled with anger and self-pity after the unfortunate death of his wife and daughter, is played by Evans with a powerful exuberance throughout. Provoking both commiseration and terror, Evans walks a fine line between the two from the opening act, as George struggles to emotionally engage with Brenda and Janet. Tyler Shaw's intense passion and her ability to communicate a spectrum of emotion (as Brenda) completes an all-round trio of absorbing performances.
A chilling, memorable climax denotes the wrap-up and provides one final gasp, securing a thoroughly enjoyable evening that exemplifies raw theatre at its finest. If you have a free night this weekend (it closes Sunday 17th), The Evacuee at The Chelsea Theatre should not be missed.
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