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  • Molly Obadiah

Review - The Nag's Head

Park Theatre

Playing until 28th October 2023


Felix Grainger, Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson


Alice Chambers

Lighting Designer

Beril Yavuz

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Set in a rural English pub, three estranged siblings inherit their father’s struggling pub following his death. Upon their return to Shireshire, a mysterious painting appears in the dead of night and horror begins to unfold as they struggle between selling up and going their separate ways, or coming together to save The Nag’s Head. The story begins when Connor (Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson) and Sarah (Cara Steele) return to the place where they grew up and begin to interact with their younger sibling Jack (Felix Grainger), who stayed behind to care for their father.

After this ominous painting arrives and is hung on the wall, the ‘spookiest pub in Shireshire’ starts to live up to its name, and the siblings each begin their descent into madness, which all unfolds into chaos. Sarah is on a mission to turn the pub into a money-making operation, dismissing any supernatural forces, while the other two struggle to keep a hold on reality as the painting works its magic on them.

Other than the three siblings, other residents in the village are portrayed through costume changes, showcasing the range of characters from local English towns. This adds some dynamic to the show, as well as some comedic value - getting a number of laughs from the audience. However, this was at times slightly disjointed with actors having to come off stage to get changed and adding different accessories – creating a fancy-dress effect instead. The music is unquestionably one of the highlights of the production, with renditions of popular songs complementing the storytelling but also keeping the audience engaged and immersed in the unfolding events.

However, "The Nag's Head" does falter in some key areas, particularly in its ability to maintain a consistent balance between comedy and horror. The transitions between these contrasting elements are at times abrupt and uneven, which can leave the audience feeling disoriented. While the intention may be to keep viewers on edge, it was hard to take any of the spooky elements seriously.

The play's premise holds great potential; however, it sometimes lacks focus and coherence. The narrative could benefit from a more refined and clearer storyline, with greater exploration on the painting itself. There is very little attention on who the ‘demon’ is in the painting, and some focus on this part of the story could have added a further level of depth to the performance. Although the eerie supernatural occurrences and inner demons are present, they don't always contribute to a cohesive and immersive narrative. Without further explorations, we as an audience were left slightly confused around its relevance. The exploration of local folklore, ghost stories, and the intricacies of pub culture could have provided more depth to the production.

The Nag's Head offers a blend of music, comedy, and paranormal occurrences, and while a premise built around independent country pubs is an interesting conception, refinements of the pub’s struggles and more fleshed out integration of the supernatural element would be beneficial in future iterations of the play.

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