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Watford Observer - October 8th 2004

Full Circle Theatre Company has succeeded vividly in bringing terror to the stage
Scary enough to raise your hair in horror

Altmans Sister
Full Circle Theatre Company

When the Watford based Full Circle theatre company announced their evening of mystery theatre at the Harrow Arts Centre, they left the context suitably elusive.
It wasn’t specified if the one act plays would cloak us in a puzzling labyrinth of crime, immerse us in the mire of religious rites or raise the hairs of horror on the back of our necks. But the key to the night’s success was the fact that it achieved all three.
The first of two plays performed last Thursday was Gillian Plowman’s Spindrift, directed by Naomi Davies.
Opening with the semi-naturalistic set of dusty book shelves and neutral spaces, its design created an air of half truths that was to set the tone for the piece.
The character of Beth had the rigid body language and abrupt manner of a highly strung cynic who was about to have her staunch beliefs turned on their head. Played by Saiyada Smith, her delivery was manic at the play’s high point when her lines came in curt, calculated bursts, and at its best when interacting with Daphne.
Performed by Karen Summers, Daphne’s vulnerability was her triumph card when she combined the sad fates of being both childless and an unhappy child with the heart wrenching line: "I wish someone would leave a baby in a cardboard box on my doorstep."
Entirely unselfconscious in her performance, she was both unprotected and protector, strong and weak, and in fusing these paradoxes quite a breathtaking presence on the armature stage.
Other great performances came from the fast talking, hair flipping Nadine, played by Natalie Graham whose perfect timing set the pace for the whole play and her on-stage husband, Charlie.
Played with brilliantly disturbing intensity by Nigel Taylor, Charlie’s intimidating stance and haunted gaze sent a chill of repulsion down my spine - traits which were conveyed brilliantly when he cornered Beth, almost crushing her with his desperate need.
Altman’s Sister was the second play of the evening and despite slightly less dazzling performances, was technically spot on.
Written and directed by Ross Forbes, cleaver use of lighting and startlingly original music by Manu Gerber created the kind of dark atmosphere usually associated with arthouse horror films and if I wasn’t griping the chair with all my might, I would have ran away in fear.
Effective lighting made the best of the Travellers Studio venue that has its drawbacks with luminous exit signs on the left and right that were particularly distracting when the stage was plunged into total darkness.
But after tempting us into the realm of secrecy, our eyes and minds were pried open wider than usual to an innovative duo of performances with a cache of stand out achievements.

Yvonne Gavan

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