Friday, 11 August 2017


After seeing Kim Newman’s previous involvement in two portmanteau theatre productions (The Hallowe’en Sessions and The Ghost Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore) I was looking forward to seeing his debut feature-length play Magic Circle, produced by Brother Wolf.

So curious, that I loved the idea of an occult-subject story, set in the early seventies about two characters in a room, in Calme Manor, that not only explores the theme of mistrust but also entrapment.

Magic Circle is a tale about a Professor Harold Cutley (Michael Shon), an academic and occult expert, determined to undo a dangerous spell cast by a former pupil, with the help of a chalk-drawn pentacle which will not only protect him, but also invoke the devil at his presence.  Enter Inspector Nicholas Gammell (James Hyland), who continuously questions Cutley about an unsolved case and places him as a suspect.  But Cutley becomes circumspect to leave the circle and, like a scene from Terence Fisher’s The Devil Rides Out, the occultist begins to cast suspicions about the pesky detective, who could be the summoned Satanail?

Poster Design #1 by Rosie Carmichael

Horror works very well with suspense and Newman has done that just right, as well as the fine direction by Phil Lowe.  For eighty minutes, I was on the edge of my seat, guessing and expecting dread, with the performances by Hyland and Shon.  But what I did get for this resolution was shock horror! Watching the West End premiere, I got an ‘I-didn’t-expect-to-see-it’ ending, which left the audience silent, until they left the auditorium for a drink and later a chat. 

Kim Newman is well known for his series of novels based on Anno Dracula, and is highly renowned for his outstanding knowledge of cinema, horror, sci-fi and cult TV.  This play is one of his finest works, and this scintillating piece of fiction should be a chief rival to the ongoing stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.

The play does have some wit and it’s eerie and at times reminded me of Hammer’s To the Devil a Daughter, which sees Henry Beddows (Denham Elliott) placing himself in a similar circle to protect himself from the dark forces.  I also felt that the detective looked a lot like Sean Connery’s character in The Offence, acting as a Gene Hunt throwback.  A treat for fans of nostalgia, especially the seventies, with its stunning set design and lighting by the director (Phil Lowe), as well as the music (Chris Warner). The costumes played a key part to the mise-en-scene of this play (Charlene Braniff and Katie Males). 

I cannot reveal much, as this play will thrill and scare theatregoers desperate for a scare. 

A must-see horror play!  

Please click here for details about the play.

A five out of five.