Jamaica Inn – Review

BishBashBosh Productions
reviewed by Jenni Balow

The Beast of Bodmin Moor takes the stage with a handful of talented actors to ensure that Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn is a real cliff-top Cornish classic.The cast of six take on many roles in this dark tale of smuggling and worse at the heart of the bleak and notorious moor, led by the monster of a man and landlord of the inn, Joss Merlyn, played by who other than the mightily talented Dean Nolan, who is also co-artistic director of BishBashBosh Productions.

Jenny Beare is the hapless Mary Yelland, who encounters the beast and his murderous secrets, when she leaves her home in Helford to seek sanctuary with her Aunt Patience, (Christabel Muir) the innkeeper’s wife and sister of her recently lost mother. All too quickly, Mary finds herself swept up in the chilling intrigue that haunts Jamaica Inn, when she finds herself in the company of regulars that include Harry the Pedlar and the Vicar of Altarnun (Jason Squibb) the Idiot of Dozmary (Daniel Richards) and horse thief and brother of the beast, Jem Merlyn,(Lewis Howard) – starting to get the picture?

It’s all a very dark business indeed, but the BishBashBosh company we have got to know and love over the past five years is known for its Celtic sense of humour, extracting a laugh where you might not think there is one.

So, the entire cast put on their cycling helmets with attached upturned bristle brushes – as horses manes, of course – and neigh, trot and whinny their way to Launceston, Altarnun and the coast. Having hit the horse invention jackpot, they keep their exotic headgear in place and later become clucking hens and snarling dogs whose barks must be worse than their bites.

The set is spare – just seven cable reels are rolled out for use as stepping stones across the boggy moor, seats and tables at the inn, barrels and even cartwheels for those snorting horses. Blackboards announce the scene changes and rain is poured from watering cans.

Audiences who booked well in advance had been expecting to see the same company present an ambitious version of Poldark. Sadly funding for a much bigger cast and possible national tour was not forthcoming, so this production was substituted late in the day. All the better then, that this is by no means a poor second, but a first rate show.

The six actors, who also sang with gusto and played musical instruments, perform with spirit and relish, directed by Simon Harvey in this adaptation by Lisa Evans.The producer is Caroline Swain and Daniel Richards also doubles as stage manager and the atmospheric sound track featured music by recent Minack performers, The People’s String Foundation. It all adds up to a great night out with the Inn crowd.