Drama | Caught in the Villain's Web | Ken Longworth

CHOOSE A SIDE: Allyn Barrett as Cyril Bothingwell, Annalie Hamilton as Felicity Fair and Alex Simpson as Malvern Larkfield.
CHOOSE A SIDE: Allyn Barrett as Cyril Bothingwell, Annalie Hamilton as Felicity Fair and Alex Simpson as Malvern Larkfield.

MAITLAND Repertory Theatre is staging a traditional melodrama, Caught in the Villain’s Web, as its end of year show, and will give audience members a glass of champagne or sherry as they arrive in the theatre so that they will be able to adeptly hiss the villain and cheer the hero.

The show will have a three weekend season at its theatre from November 17, with Friday and Saturday evening performances and Sunday matinees. Audience members will be seated around tables for eight people, and have a light supper before the show, with desserts at interval.

The melodrama, which has the full title Caught in the Villain's Web, or More Sinned Against Than Sinning, has been popular with audiences worldwide since it was written by American playwright Herbert E. Swayne in 1949.

Swayne stuck to the traditional 19th century format and setting of melodramas, with the villain, a crooked lawyer, wearing a large cape.

The play is being directed by Steve Ryan, who has amusingly shown his melodrama expertise as an actor and director.

Caught in the Villain’s Web is set in the wealthy Larkfield family’s country mansion, with the lives of those around her being manipulated by the owner, hard-hearted Mrs Regina Larkfield, played by another melodrama veteran, Dimity Eveleens.

A society matron, Regina is pretending to be ill to force her son, Malvern (Alex Simpson), to marry a scheming family friend, Nella Hargrave (Anna Balfour), who has developed a passion for the young man. Malvern, however, is attracted to a nurse, Felicity Fair (Annalie Hamilton), who is brought to care for Regina by her physician, Dr Hugo Belch (Terry Allen). 

Regina’s lawyer, Cyril Bothingwell (Allyn Barrett), is plotting to get possession of Larkfield Mansion, and spends most of his time there in activities such as listening behind a screen to the conversations of others.

He’s also planning to choose either Felicity or Regina’s daughter, Lona (Shay Gardiner), to carry out his dastardly deeds.

He overhears Felicity, when Malvern proposes to her, tell him that she can never marry because she lost her memory after being involved in a train wreck five years earlier and can’t recall if she was wed.

Cyril subsequently tells Felicity that she is his wife.

The story’s other characters include butler Brockston (Ian Robinson), French maid Denise (Aimee Cavanagh) and Nella’s ailing mother (Sue Shaw).

Caught in the Villain’s Web has drinks and supper from 7pm and 1pm, with the show beginning at 8pm and 2pm. Dessert and tea and coffee are served at interval.

Tickets, $37, include the show and supper.

Bookings: 4931 2800.