As a self-confessed horror fanatic, when I became aware that Susan Hill's ghostly novel 'The Small Hand' was coming to Theatre Royal in Brighton, where I now live, I knew I had to go! Susan Hill is one of my favourite authors, her incredibly descriptive style of writing make her books genuinely chilling, something that other 'horror' authors I've come across, excluding Stephen King of course, are unable to do. Hill is also the author of 'The Woman In Black', which has also been adapted for the stage and big screen too. Those who have seen 'The Woman In Black' in the theatre will be aware of how spine-chilling it is, a true gothic play that is genuinely scary. Even the most recent film adaptation staring Daniel Radcliffe, although only given the certificate of 12A has some jumpy moments and incredibly dark themes.
I read 'The Small Hand: A Ghost Story' a few years ago and although very different to Hill's other ghost stories, has the same descriptive language that enables one to really immerse themselves in this haunted world that Hill creates. I was really interested to see how Clive Francis, the adaptor for the stage, would transform this book into a play. I booked for the day when the director, Roy Marsden and author, Susuan Hill would be doing a Q&A post performance, however this was unfortunately cancelled. The play alone though was still fantastic.
Photo Credit: Darren Bell
With only three main actors in the entire production, it echoed that of 'The Woman In Black'. With a minimalistic set, the focus is on the actors which creates an incredibly tense atmosphere and really helps create a spine-chilling air in the theatre- which is supposedly haunted itself. A particular element of the adaptation from book to stage was the inclusion of local places as settings. Although this is a variation from the book, in this instance it really worked as it felt far more realistic and relatable, and thus more frightening. The acting was impeccable, despite there only being three actors onstage, the quick changes and accents from Diane Keen and Robert Duncan convincingly felt as though there were other characters jointing Andrew Lancel's Adam Snow. Although as previously stated the set was not elaborate, the simplicity almost added to the tension and meant the audience were not distracted from the chilling storyline delivered through dramatic, emotional monologues and rhetoric scenes.
Photo Credit: Darren Bell
Overall, 'The Small Hand' was an incredibly beautiful adaptation of an already excellent ghost story. Although no longer touring smaller theatres across England, I suspect that it may be heading for larger venues in the future, perhaps following in the successful footsteps of 'The Woman In Black'.