The Black Veil - Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Charles Dickens was no shirker when it came to spinning a yarn – as anyone who has dipped into his novels and found they couldn’t put them down will testify.
But even in his more bite sized works (even the exploits of Scrooge are a few hundred pages shorter than those of Mr Pickwick) he reveals a sheer genius for story telling.
The Black Veil certainly isn’t one of his most familiar short stories but this stage adaptation by John Goodman for the workmanlike Bruce James Productions has more twists, turns and plot cul de sacs than Blackpool’s current town centre roadway system.
We clearly know something is amiss when a newly qualified young doctor stars pouring out his life story to a soaking wet mysterious old lady who arrives at silly-o-clock to his humble dwelling dressed from head to toe in widow’s weeds and her face completely obscured by a black veil.
His courteous and caring willing to listen (and chat) is not the sort of attention you get from the National Heath Service – even before the Government starts tinkering with it.
Anyway Dr Ruddles (played with an endearingly naïve approach by Nick Murphy) has had a chequered love life and doesn’t mind telling The Woman (you’ve got to feel sorry for the shrouded Jen Holt) all about it despite her being annoyingly vague about why she needs his help with her grandson (but not until 9am the following day).
Andrew Ryan completes the three hander as gruff Luke who, if you dared to doze in the first half will come as a complete surprise – a little like the denouement itself.