Arts Reviews

“A GCSE Production” – Theatre Review: The Wicked Lady @ Theatre Royal

Ellie Goodson

The Wicked Lady is a horror show in which Alice Beaumont is sent to an abandoned house, suspected of ghostly occurrences. There, she attempts to solve the disappearance of a young girl, Sarah. A sceptical woman, Alice at first is quite rational about her experiences, but over time her mental faculties are worn down. That’s the first half of the show anyway, the second half of the performance feels like a totally different production, says Ellie Goodson.

Before I give too much of the story away, let’s talk about what was good about the performance. Overall, Alice (Nicki Davy) and her counterpart in the performance, Detective Sean (Saul Bache), are strong characters played by strong actors. The development of Detective Sergeant Sean was unexpected and Alice remained a strong and mighty woman throughout the performance. The use of paranormal activity to build tension in the first half was really good, and so the audience expects such tension to be capitalised upon in the second half.

But that’s where all my issues with The Wicked Lady begin, the second half. With the confession of the antagonist and the continuing paranormal presence, we find ourselves watching a messy mixture of two genres which leaves the audience confused and dumbfounded.

The set and the story just brought everything down

And then there’s the set – the acting in the first half of the performance makes clear to the audience that there’s an inside and an outside area, distinguishable by a change in level. However, in the second half these levels become horribly merged with Alice climbing from the outside part of the stage onto the inside and thus removing the illusion of different environments.

The ending is nonsensical at best, with our protagonist’s demise coming out of nowhere and it being unclear what actually happened to her. The costume design for our spectral being is – and I quote another member of the audience – “like the power rangers”.

The whole production just felt so… GCSE. We all know remember this, when we were in secondary school and the GCSE drama students put on a performance for the school and its so full of loud music and flashing lights to compensate for the dead acting. That’s what The Wicked Lady was like – strange music to show a change in scene when the different stage levels sufficed, excessive lighting for spooky moments when frankly the music and atmosphere was enough. The whole thing just needed dialling down a bit. This doesn’t take away, however, from the fact that the acting was good. Really, the set and the story just brought everything down.

The writer decided to throw in some paranormal activity for…?

Oh, and the ‘over time’ part I mentioned earlier of Alice wearing down into a blubbering, terrified mess – that was one night. She goes to sleep, and wakes up terrified of her surroundings, but nothing exceptional happened during the short time she slept for the audience, nothing to signify why she would be suddenly falling apart.

A child’s voice is often featured as haunting the house to set a tone of horror during the climactic moments of the scenes, but why there is a child’s voice at all is not addressed. As an audience we can put two and two together and maybe get four or five, but considering the whole story is about a child going missing, it just feels like it should’ve been clearer. Maybe the initial idea of the performance was the case of a missing child and a shock-horror reveal as to who the culprit is, and then the writer decided to throw in some paranormal activity for…?

There are ways a lot of these issues could have been fixed, like connecting Sarah to the history of the house through her genealogy, or Alice putting her recording devices on to use when the antagonist confesses their crime (instead of her being ‘killed’ out of nowhere), or even there being no ‘Wicked Lady’ at all. Overall, the play was more focused on jump-scares (that became predictable with time) and far less on a coherent story. But I don’t want to end the article on so much negativity. The acting from Nicki Davy and Saul Bache was good, and they are two very talented individuals.

I watched a performance that was a year out of practice

Also, the performance I watched was in the first few days of a nationwide tour, having only been established last year. So I watched a production that was a year out of practice, at the start of the tour, and yet to smooth out all the creases. So I think this should be taken into consideration: there’s a lot of flaws with the production, and the title character of the performance is really unnecessary to the story, but I don’t want to ignore the wonderful acting and decent – if not currently coherent – story ideas.

Ellie Goodson

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @royalnottingham via No changes were made to this image.

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Carol
    25 September 2022 at 10:56
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    My daughter and I saw this play at Nottingham. It seemed to us that the writer had watched The Woman in Black at some point. Some of the play is very similar. Someone going to a run down house. A black spectre popping in and out. The sound of horses and a child.
    We expected better from this play. Instead of people being scared, they laughed at the ‘scares’.

  • AMJ
    26 September 2022 at 09:06
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    Great to read this review. We are not frequent theatre-goers, but were absolutely shocked by the second half of the performance. The first half was a little slow and reliant on jump scares, but felt that it might go somewhere… and actually where it went was nonsensical and involved way too much shouting about nothing. Good to know we weren’t the only ones wondering what happened! Although we did hear many similar comments from the departing viewers around us as we all walked back down the stairs…

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