If you like non-confrontational theatre, plays without a message, or just fancy a pleasant morning, Hell’s Bells is the play for you. This certainly seemed the case for the audience watching the play at the performance I attended.
Hell’s Bells is the first theatre play written by acclaimed author, Lynne Truss, famous for her highly amusing, entertaining and scholarly book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I wish that some of that delicious wit and engaging narrative had been present in Hell’s Bells, as only a couple of humorous remarks on period pronunciation came close to suggesting what could have been achieved.
This play is also short on plot: three people assemble to record a commentary for a DVD release of relatively unsuccessful 1990s British TV period drama about a hat maker entitled Mrs Milliner. The characters have a bit of a disagreement. That’s it. All three all of the experienced actors battle to give their two dimensional characters some life, and they succeed as much as the writing allows them.
There are also some confusing directorial choices; a sequence depicting the characters recording their DVD commentary spliced into a short montage could have been be a lot clearer, cleaner, and more pointed to have a greater effect. There is considerable set and props, yet when the DVD commentary is supposedly being recorded a character pushes an imaginary invisible stop/start button - why suddenly mime a prop?
All in all, a rather adequate and underwhelming piece and production. One cannot deny that the capacity audience at the performance I attended enjoyed their morning in the theatre, but reaction was polite rather than raving.