The Cat and the Canary at Malvern Theatres: Review

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A lonely elderly lady sits alone on a sofa in the dark. Thunder and lightening outside the window bring the scene to life and she gazes fondly at a huge portrait on the wall. Soon, the audience are introduced to six potential heirs of her master’s fortune. Something is amiss and the elderly lady is certain that evil is afoot.

Britt Ekland Mrs Pleasant, Tracy Shaw – Annabelle – The Cat and the Canary Photo by Paul Coltas

The Cat and the Canary adaptation by Bill Kenwright and the Classic Thriller Theatre Company

The elderly lady in the first scene is the inimitable Mrs Pleasant, played by none other than global superstar Britt Ekland. She has been guarding a creepy old mansion for twenty years since the death of its owner. At last, the night has arrived when his will is to be read at the stroke of midnight. His last six remaining relatives gather to find out which of them is to be his sole heir.

When the heir is announced via a gramophone recording of the deceased’s voice, strange things begin to occur. To the frequent mutterings of, “It’s the evil” from Mrs Pleasant, strange crashing noises and unusual weather disturb the gathering. When a knock at the door reveals that a killer is on the loose, things become more than a little frightening.

A murderer is creeping around in the shadows. Or is he? Twist after twist in the second half keep the audience guessing. Nothing is quite as it seems. Be prepared for plenty of frights and a fair few giggles too. With a totally star-studded cast, it is no wonder that the audience were glued to the edge of their seats throughout.

Tracy Shaw as Annabelle, Mark Jordon as Paul – The Cat and the Canary Photo by Paul Coltas

The cast

With a leading lady like Britt Ekland, it is unsurprising that the rest of the cast are well known faces too. One of my favourite characters was bumbling cousin Paul, played by Mark Jordon. If you were a Heartbeat fan back in the day, you’ll immediately recognise him as PC Phil Bellamy.

Confident author Annabelle was played by Tracy Shaw of Coronation Street fame. Loveable rogue Harry was played by Gary Webster who is well known for many television roles, including Hollyoaks, The Bill and Eastenders. They were joined by Marti Webb as Susan Sillsby and Susan’s niece Cicily is played by Nikki Patel. Look out for Roger Crosby played by Eric Carte and Ben Nealon as Charlie Wilder. Their characters are hiding a plot twist you’ll never see coming.

Cast of The Cat and the Canary UK Tour. Photo by Paul Coltas

What you need to know about The Cat and the Canary

The idea for The Cat and the Canary came to John Willard during a mission in the first world war. He completed the manuscript in November 1921 and it opened on Broadway in February 1922, with Willard playing Harry. Since then it has been adapted numerous times for both stage and screen. It has aged incredibly well and still seems just as relevant today. After all, most of us know a family that has come to blows over a relative’s will.

The Cat and the Canary is showing at Malvern Theatres until Saturday, 22nd February. After that, it is set to continue touring around the UK until August. To book tickets for Malvern, head to the Malvern Theatres website. Tickets for the rest of the tour can be booked here.

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