A HIGHLY realistic stage set, three accomplished actors and a Rudyard Kipling short story adapted and re-set in the North are promising ingredients for a new production.

North Country Theatre’s 20th anniversary tour which opened in Richmond, delivered just that.

The audience were welcomed into Grace Ashcroft’s kitchen, where the washed-out tones of green and yellow and solid but worn pine furnishings spoke of former times and provided an intimate setting for Grace to impart the unusual circumstances of her life.

Between conversations during home visits from the district nurse and the local vicar, Grace gradually revealed herself as a once beautiful farm girl, whose great love for villager Harry Mockler had led to a supernatural bargain to save his life.

Ashley Christmas played the warm-hearted Grace whilst Mark Cronfield and Vivienne Garnett who also directed, took the parts of all of the other characters. As the three re-enacted episodes from the past, the action was transported elsewhere via laundry items suspended from the drying rack to create large scenery backdrops.

Grace’s frank reminiscences of her former appetites and "satisfactions" cause great discomfort to the spinster nurse tending her poorly leg, but leads to Grace matchmaking and tutoring Lizzy in the art of flirtation.

The use of a mop inside a shirt to represent a man gave rise to a highly funny scene which contrasted well against the dark secret of The Wish House and the poignancy of Grace’s impending death.

When it emerged that Tom the vicar believed himself ineligible for marriage because of his health, the possible solution provided by The Wish House had already been planted in Lizzy’s mind. The disturbing possibility of history repeating itself is left suspended at the play’s conclusion.

This was quality drama with credible characters – a gripping yarn of love, longing, sacrifice and selflessness.

Christina McIntyre