There is dark foreboding to Tim Hardy’s performance of Simon Brett’s monologue, directed by Alison Skilbeck. It’s as if a woman in white was about to step into the candlelight of his library desk or a raven caw from the darkness around it.
Brett certainly provides enough literary references to stoke the fires of such ideas, as Hardy creates this indolent man who has spent his life writing book reviews for minor literary magazines.
One punctiliously delivered line after another, Hardy piles up the particular horror reserved for the second sons of the super rich in 19th century England – kept by governesses and beaten on any whim by a distant father whose greatest delight was in punishing and eradicating any tendency towards “beastliness” in his teenage son.
Skilbeck’s direction is very static and she keeps Hardy’s delivery low-key – a rather annoying stutter apart – making the whole piece hang more on the twists and turns of the script than it might otherwise do.
It’s a curate’s egg of an ending, too. The twist is clever and well-conceived, but its delivery lacks a sense of relish. Nor is there enough resonance from what has gone before, meaning that it doesn’t chill in the way it might.