Take a walk across Nomansland Common in rural Hertfordshire, and you might just hear the sound of galloping hooves. Look over your left shoulder and you might see the ghost of Lady Katherine Ferrers riding her black horse towards you, pistol in hand.
The legend of the Wicked Lady Skelton told in King-Hall’s novel of the same name deals with the life of a bored aristocratic woman, locked in an unsatisfactory marriage, who takes to a life of highway robbery. Dressed as a man, ruthless and bloodthirsty, she murders her way into infamy. The story was instantly picked up by Hollywood and turned into a blockbuster starring Margaret Lockwood and James Mason. The film became notorious for two reasons: firstly, because the American censors were unhappy with Lockwood’s plunging necklines and demanded some scenes be reshot and secondly, because it became the biggest box office smash of 1945. The film was remade in 1983 by Michael Winner with Faye Dunaway, Alan Bates, and John Gielgud but this version didn’t enjoy the same success as the former.
Its outdoor sequences, including coaches and horses, frost fairs and phantoms, make it a challenge to adapt for the stage but this version by award-winning dramatist Bryony Lavery is an exciting one. Amid the killing and the carnage, there, at the heart of it all, is a story of one woman’s attempt to find fulfillment, excitement and love; only at the last does it all slip through her fingers.
Shattered Windscreen were last in Cornwall in 2015 with their Minack Trophy-winning production of The Grapes of Wrath.