The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Mon 3rd – Thu 13th December 2012


David Pittam

at 00:44 on 12th Dec 2012



Tuesday night of my last week of term and I found myself making my way to the Bierkeller theatre for my first ever theatre review, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ‘, a play by Phil John and Simon Harvey-Williams. I have to admit, I was apprehensive. The first thing I did on arriving was head straight to the bar and buy myself a (reasonably) cheap cider, because these things are always a little bit more entertaining after a pint or so. I then settled down and waited for the show to begin. The audience began to assemble (the choice of music did little to put me at ease, as it seemed to just be a man singing about slaughter and death). In total there must have been 20 or so of us, not a poor turnout for a freezing Tuesday evening. The lights turned out (thus ending my hopes of being professional and taking notes) and after a brief awkward pause the play began.

So to the play itself. It was adapted from the short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving, which most people –myself included- know thanks to the film of the same name by Tim Burton. You can, if so inspired by this review, read a more in depth summary, or the story itself, but this is the plot of this play. The deeply superstitious teacher Ichobad Crane (Elliot Chapman) moves to a backwards town, called ‘Sleepy Hollow’ in America to educate the townsfolk. He falls in love with the local rich girl Katrina (Lois Baldry), but she loves the local ‘lad’ Brom (Henry Topham), who is everything Ichobad is not. Brom and his friends scare Ichobad away with tales of the ghostly headless horsemen, but not everything goes their way in the end.

However, what appeared to be the most important member of the cast - the backdrop - was not even mentioned in the programme; I have never seen so much use gotten out of one white sheet! It served as horse, bed, background and pretty much every part a sheet could feasibly perform. This would have been fine, had it been any good at it. It was at times nicely used, but otherwise was a little bit lazy and annoying. Furthermore, this production suffered from the curse of all amateur dramatics, the creating of genuine fear with few props or CGI. Unfortunately, the company didn't succeed. In fact, the most terrifying aspect of this show was the high likelihood of audience participation which had us all firmly rooted to our seats. However, I feel the emphasis was more on fun and jokes rather than horror, and in this they delivered very well. Although I was probably the most enthusiastic audience member when it came to laughing, I found their interpretation and many of the scenes very well done and amusing. The characterisation and acting as a whole was also very well done, a lot better than I had been expecting from a rather unpromising programme of ‘‘up and coming’’s. The dad was amusingly sassy and, although at times Ichobad was a little bit too over the top, as a whole this was the plays redeeming feature - the quality of the acting. I thought the women performed particularly well, as did Henry Topham, though his looks and surprisingly frequent flexing may have somewhat compromised my objectivity...

In all, I would recommend this as an interesting play that kept me entertained, and refused to conform to any of my expectations, whether for good or bad. Indeed, when the lights went up at the end I was quite taken aback and disappointed, as it was a little abrupt and seemed to just be getting frightening. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was well acted and funny, but not for anyone looking to be chilled or shocked.


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