Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Perhaps more confusing than scary, there's probably a good story hidden in there.
Over the years The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has been everything from a Disney short to a Tim Burton macabre thriller. Based on the story by 18th century writer Washington Irving, it tells the tale of Ichabod Crane, a Bostonian teacher who winds up in the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, a tightly knit community who have dark secrets and even darker pasts.
The reason for Crane's visit is not immediately clear, he states it is to bring his teaching to a new town, but as the villagers attempt to bring him into their ways it is clear that neither he nor they are being entirely honest with each other. The annual tradition of Hallowmas, the retelling of the legend and the apparent ritualistic acceptance of fate lead to a sense of uncertainty, but sadly for a ghost story, no real feeling of fear.
The 1st act remains quite true to the original story; out of towner trying to ingratiate himself with the locals, they being wary of anyone new. Sam Jackson as Crane paints a believable image of a city teacher finding himself in a hamlet unchanged since the original settlers. His 'rival', local Brom (Lewis Cope) is clearly threatened by Crane, both for the affections of Katrina (Rose Quentin) and as a destablising influence on the traditional way of life. This could have been developed more into a love triangle, were it not for the fact that the only real chemistry was between the two male leads. Quentin seems to favour shouting as her method for portraying intensity which weakens the menace of her character in the finale.
Other members of the cast try hard with their parts (most play multiple roles) but some are odd and others just baffling. Bill Ward as the patriarch Baltus Van Tassel seems a little lost as to whether he is drunk, insane, a bully or just in the wrong place. Wendi Peters as the Widow Papenfuss (an original character written for this production) however is the one true solid character - she toes a fine line between age old confidante and dangerous harpy, never letting the audience settle into deciding to like or fear her.
The 2nd act tries to introduce more folklore; Wendigo, Wraiths, and a sea devil to name but a few, the legendary Headless Horseman makes a brief appearance but sadly the writing prevents any chance to build tension towards the climax. It takes a few moments to adjust to the recounting of both the legend and Crane's past life before you realise what is being played out and even then the relevance to the main plot is not entirely clear.
There are some very clever uses of smoke and lighting (credit Amy Watts & Jason Addison) and some unique scene changes using interpretative dance but these can't redeem some poor direction - all too often the blocking meant dialogue was being delivered to the rear of the stage with the lead standing with their back to the audience and as such it was nigh on impossible to hear everything being said.
In all, this felt like a compilation of Hammer House of Horror tv shows; lots of individual components but no golden thread to tie them all into a comprehensible story.