When Australian author, June Wright published her novel The Devil’s Caress in 1953, she was already riding a wave of fame as a crime mystery fiction writer. Described by some as a hybrid of Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier, Wright’s novels are tense, psychological melodramas with hints of whimsical humour. They sound perfect for stage adaptation, which is exactly what playwright Wendy Lewis has done.
The stage version of The Devil’s Caress, currently being performed by Factory Space Theatre Company in Manly, showcases Wright’s skill with subtleties of language and ability to bring a cast of disparate characters together under an umbrella of intrigue.
Marsh Mowbray (Sarah Moon), is a medical graduate who is invited to a weekend gathering – along with a number of other guests – at the home of Dr Katherine Waring (Capri Walsh). There is an immediate sense of disquiet as each of the characters discloses fragments of a larger, unsavoury story. It is not long before a murder takes place and the innuendos become open, hostile accusations. Is Katherine Waring a remorseless predator or a victim of malicious hearsay?
In her adaptation Lewis has chosen to include June Wright (Alexandra Chambers) as a character in the play, writing the story and interacting with the other characters as it progresses. It adds an interesting dimension and provides an opportunity to learn about the author herself.
The staging is minimal yet very effective and the costumes add authenticity. The performers are invested in their characters and the plot, and there are some genuine shocks and laughs.
Until Apr 14. Star Of The Sea Theatre, Cnr Collingwood and Iluka St, Manly. $28-$35+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.factoryspace.org
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.