Review: Centurion / Director: Paul Anderton / Author: Baz Greenland / Starring: Tom Reed-Goodehall, Lily Shepherd, Adam Beresford / Location: Fab Cafe Manchester / Dates: October 26-28th
Good ghost stories are often quite difficult to do at the best of times. Because the audiences are usually expecting to scared, they tend to have their guard up and are therefore more likely to be watchful for the odd shock or two. Centurion is a sci-fi-style scary story that deals with this issue by relying heavily on a strong script and powerful performances.
The set up for the story is rather nice: an advanced expedition party is on a lonely world, evaluating the environment for rapid colonisation. It is a very small team of explorers – two scientists (who happen to be husband and wife) and their friend Rick, a brilliant engineer whose talent comes at the cost of him being slightly neurotic and easily lulled into obsessive behaviour. Things begin to go wrong when the team make a seemingly innocent discovery and then find themselves cut off in a sandstorm.
There are some effective call-backs to classic sci-fi here; the frequent, isolating sand storms that the planet suffers from make you think of the Doctor Who classic The Robots of Death, and the world the story is set in has a gritty, hard sci-fi vibe that will be familiar to fans of movies like Alien. For a spooky story to work well on stage the performances have to be dead on; it’s hard to make the audience scared if the actors don’t appear to be genuinely terrified. Tom Reed-Goodehall puts in an excellent performance as the brilliant but broken engineer Rick and delivers the right amount of shock and fear without chewing the scenery. Both Lily Shepherd and Adam Beresford turn in a credible performance as a more grounded, down-to-earth married couple, and the dynamic between the cast is strong and well communicated.
Starburst understands that the production will also have some video footage as part of the production (the venue has many video screens dotted around the place). Sadly these were not available at the preview we attended, but the production did not suffer because of it. Over all, Centurion is a well-written little tale, that is just long enough to be nicely spine chilling, and happens to be performed in a pleasant venue that seems like it was made for this particular show.