Evil Crossing is a faithful adaptation of one chapter from an iconic Gothic horror novel. I won’t say which in order to maintain some suspense – although the programme notes do give it away. It doesn’t attempt to tackle the wider themes of the book but sticks with the idea of telling a good “ghost story”.
The tale is picked up by a local journalist as he describes the daily happenings in the little port of Whitby. It’s clearly a slow news day as he has time to give us details of the fine weather. But a storm is approaching and with it a strange foreign schooner that will provide a macabre mystery revealed in part by its log book.
A flashback sequence allows the captain of the unlucky ship to give a day by day account of the apparently doomed crossing. It would appear that the crew were growing increasingly unhappy; convinced they had an unwelcome passenger onboard and that the captain felt compelled to take extreme measures to save his soul and honour.
It’s a reasonable proposition to take this single chapter as inspiration for a one-man performance, indeed it has already been produced as a radio play and it looks likely that a film will follow. The problem with this production is that it sticks almost too devotedly to the source material, which draws on letters, log book and diary entries. The moments of drama are interspersed with these and the suspense is never sustained over the seemingly interminable voyage. Much of the action is reduced to little more than readings, which is a pity as James Dickson can clearly act when given a chance.
The stage-set, lighting and sound design provides a suitably sinister atmosphere but can’t save the foundering production which is as choppy as the crossing and drowns in a sea of unnecessary detail.
23-28 August 2010, 5.40pm