Strange things are occurring at The Floral Pavilion in New Brighton next week. The acclaimed Middle Ground Theatre Company are back in town, staging a star-studded production of Barbara Vine’s Gallowglass which, back in 1993, was made into a hugely popular TV mini-series that saw Michael Sheen make his TV debut.
The word “gallowglass” means servant, or one indebted to another. This is the story of a young man who feels such indebtedness to another young man after he is saved from committing suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. So strong is his sense of gratitude that he follows his ‘saviour’ even to the kidnapping of a wealthy woman. But there are ulterior motives to the kidnapping, complicating it with other details that intertwine and make for a typical British murder mystery.
There are plenty of actors for audiences to recognise in this production. Paul Opacic played Steve Marchant in Emmerdale and, also, Carl Costello in Hollyoaks. Another favourite with Merseyside audiences is Karen Drury who played Susannah Farnham for nine years in Brookside.
Another familiar face will be that of Richard Walsh best known for playing fireman Bert “Sicknote” Quigley in the long-running ITV drama series London’s Burning from 1986 to 2000. In Gallowglass Richard plays the wealthy Ralph Apsoland and is delighted to be returning to The Wirral venue.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to New Brighton. We were up there recently with The Verdict and had a great time so we’re looking forward very much to returning. My part in this play is small but very significant. I’m the + 60-year-old husband of the beautiful trophy wife, Nina, played by Florence Cady. The best way of describing Nina is the Femme fatale of the piece. She drives all the men mad with lust and my character is married to her! She has a thing for older men, which is kind of integral to the plot.”
Barbara Vine is the pen name of the late, great crime novelist Ruth Rendell who passed away in 2015. The author was noted for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her cogent plots and characters and brought awareness to such issues as domestic violence, which at the time were more or less taboo. Writing as Vine, it would be fair to say her storylines were grittier than those under the Rendell banner, made famous by her character Chief Inspector Reg Wexford, played by George Baker on TV. Gallowglass is no exception.
“Gallowglass is basically about obsession,” Richard explained. “It also sees one of the characters, Young Joe, who isn’t too mentally
aware, being taken along for a ride and used to someone else’s ends. It’s quite dark in places but rattles along at an astonishing pace and dovetails beautifully where it should. There’re no stones left unturned either.”
“I’ve read the novel and seen the TV adaptation and what I’ll say we have done is narrowed the size of both down very well so that they fit the stage, and gets the story across slightly better. The ending is a bit vague on TV, but here there is a proper dénouement which is always nice with mystery.”
“I’ve done a lot of work with Middle Ground before, I adapted The Verdict for them, so it has been nice working with them on this as well, although solely in an acting capacity. The cast is really impressive and it’s a lot of fun to work on. A lot of the cast are also quite young which keeps me young, too – there are times I feel like their granddad – and Joe Eyre who plays Sandor has a big, big future ahead of him. He is really talented.”
“It’s a really, really exciting play that makes you think and the audience reaction we’ve had on the tour so far has been fabulous. In a space like The Floral Pavilion, which is a beautiful theatre, it’ll be quite an experience to see.”
Middle Ground Theatre Company Ltd presents Gallowglass by Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine). New Brighton Floral Pavilion. February 13 – February 17. Click HERE for Ticket Information
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