The Denys Edwards Players are perhaps one of the (if not THE) longest running theatre companies in Sheffield! Denys Edward was a leading local amateur actor in the 20's and 30's who toured with various socieities throughout the war, until the war ended and he and his peers decided to form the "Denys Edwards Players", or "DEP".
Some of their past shows include 'Last of the Duty Free', 'Abigail's Party' and even 'David Copperfield'. (Jack Hallam Level 6 student can tell you about this as he was in it!)
But this March they have brought to the stage the deliciously dramatic and harrowing tale of "Sleep No More" by David Gillespie and Colin Wakefield.
I was lucky to actually see this play come to life in it's early stages when I partook in some work placement with them. Everyone was so welcoming! There was an overwhelming sense of community and great collaboration from everyone involved.
The first thing that struck me was the song 'If I Could Turn Back Time' by Cher that was playing as the house lights went down and the audience chatter started to fade. I knew this was something the characters in the play were going to relate to, especially combined with the eery and haunting promo picture of a ghostly child's face and noose on the front of the programme.
Because of my 'sneak preview' in rehearsals I knew the format of the piece was 'a play within a play'. While I was there, I also got hints of strong family connections and the obvious appearance of an apparition, so I couldn't wait to see where this fitted in with the whole plot.
The first spoken character to appear on stage was Andrew Hibbert as Mickey. This guy can teach you a lesson in being flamboyant! I loved the role he played as the director, he was so larger and life and really took control of the pacing of the scenes, which flowed very nicely!
For me, the scene stealers of the night had to be Angela Blackwell as 'Jenny', who with fierce loyalty to her son Ben and striking facial expressions of discontent and outspoken sassiness directed at Pete, really honed her role! She was so comfortable on stage and had some great naturalitsic acting going on. I felt my eyes darting back to her when the drama unfolded to see her reactions. Another had to be the man of the hour Paul North who played Pete. A moment that I will always associate with this play will be when Mickey was explaining the plot of the play they were rehearsing, Murder By Poison, and Pete hilariously physicalised the plot with exaggerated actions and silly faces, without saying one word. I love little nuances that actors can bring to a scene to make it so memorable. I presumed it was to entertain the young Ben on stage, but it definitely entertained the little kid in me! This is of course not to mention all of Paul's believable 'toxic masculine' pent up anger towards the two promininent women in the play; Jenny and Sal.
A few honourable mentions have to go out to Sophie Perez Smith as Sal, who with charm and relatability made her one of the warmest and sincerest characters of the play, her comedy was also excellent and had the most audience laughs! Ben Rossiter as Ben, a very talented young man who had great stage presence, childlike wonder and lovely innocence to his role and (if I may say) has a bright future ahead of him in theatre! John Castell as William, who knew more than he let on and was hiding a few secrets, his portrayal of a lonesome and perculiar character was spot on. And ofcourse, Ashleigh Andrew who played Eva. A devilishly manipulative and evil apparition with a beautiful costume. (you'll see what I mean!)
All in all, the play kept me on my toes and reeled me in to find out the truth of the haunted theatre. An excellent production. Simple yet practical and aesthetically pleasing set design. Great mix of fully thought out characters and actor ages, really nice to see. You should all be proud!
"Sleep No More" runs from Wednesday 27th to Saturday the 30th of March at the Library Theatre, Sheffield. Doors 7pm, Show 7:30pm (Matinee 2:30pm start). Don't let the thought of missing this play haunt you!