PETER COLLEY Playwright-Screenwriter



2003 at the Oldham Coliseum (near Manchester, England)

It was Miss Peacock in the study with the candlestick.  Well, not quite, but the Coliseum’s latest production is a superb comedy thriller that keeps everyone guessing.  As the plot develops, the storyline twists and turns and is easily one of the Coliseums best plays so far this season.  Excellent!  All of the characters were excellent and the script was watertight and the lighting and sound effects were brilliant.  They built up the tension and gave the play its edge, bringing both characters and storyline to life leaving the first-night audience screaming and squirming in their seats.  The dark comedy thrills were tense, leaving the audience laughing nervously - definitely one to go and watch if you like your thrillers.   LW 
Oldham Advertiser

"The kind of (audience) reaction I haven’t heard since Psycho."

Twisting and Turning Thriller Moves at a Fast Pace

SCREAMS and gasps greeted every twist and turn of Peter Colley’s gripping thriller at the Oldham Coliseum, which must have been rewarding for the award-winning Canadian playwright who flew in to view, at first hand, the British staging of the play which has already grossed him over $10m worldwide.  I’ll Be Back Before Midnight has not only become the most produced play in Canada, but has also been made into a film starring Susannah York, Robert Carradine and Heather Locklear. 
The opening scenes amble along as the four main characters are introduced and then the real action started and the convoluted plot, played at a spanking pace, brought the kind of reaction I haven’t heard since Psycho. 
James Nickerson is excellent as Greg and Vashti MacLachlan is also first rate as Jan, who has to stagger from one hysterical outburst to another as the tension rises.  Laura Richmond is also good as Greg’s manipulative sister and Andy Abrahams, as George, their garrulous landlord, supplies the much appreciated laughs. 
In John Adam’s cracking production, there are more complications than my dentist has to deal with and just when you think it’s all over... ? Well, that would be telling and you’ll have to go along to the Coliseum to find out for yourselves. 
Natalie Anglesey  Manchester Evening News

"I found myself enjoying Colley’s ingenuity (he keeps you guessing throughout, which isn’t bad going when there are only four characters)"

Midnight Chill Full of Laughs

SEND your patrons off into the summer break with a crowd pleaser and they’ll be back for more --  if not before midnight, then at least around September.  It looks like there is no danger of absent audiences come the new season if Peter Colley’s blood-and-guts chiller has anything to do with it, directed with an attitude just this side of Hammer horror by John Adams and performed   with remarkable gusto by a cast of four.  “Midnight”, as befits a thriller written in the recent past, is a sort of cross between Agatha Christie and Ira Levin -- a good selection of motives and potential villains mixed with the sort of adult shenanigans (implied not viewed, in case you are of a delicate disposition) that dear old Aggie could only dream of.  To lighten the load of all the blood and sordid nastiness, there are laughs -- rather a lot of them -- although as the play progresses some are of the nervous variety.  Colley’s play isn’t really comic but has one light character (or is he?), the local farmer, George, our all-knowing guide, storyteller and handy chap to have around in a crisis.  Obviously written to cut across the sinister plot, the role is played with native earthiness and insensitive charm by Andy Abrahams.  The crisis in this case is the young city couple installed in his guest house in the wilds while she (Jan, played by Vashti MacLachlan) recovers from a breakdown and he (Greg, James Nickerson) tries to collect flints and keep his sister Laura (Laura Richmond), with whom he has been rather too friendly, at arm’s length.  The story follows the events of one summer in this moorland cottage with its banging windows, ever-whistling gales, ghost stories and frequent blackouts, and when I compliment Phil Davies’s clever lighting design, I realise the irony of that last bit...  Despite having a general aversion to this sort of play, I found myself enjoying Colley’s ingenuity (he keeps you guessing pretty much throughout, which isn’t bad going when there are only four characters), the wonderfully detailed set by Janet Bird with its sliding doors, banging windows and tatty look, and Anna Holly’s all-important sound design, with its heart-stopping music and bleak weather sounds.  The cast is pretty exemplary throughout. Vashti MacLachian plays her wide-eyed victim with eyes so wide they should be fitted with end-stops, while James Nickerson displays what one might call anxious calm as her husband and Laura Richmond a hearty vampishness as the sister.  As a package it is great fun -- and a good thriller too.  PG

Oldham Chronicle

"It’s lovely to meet again Canadian Peter Colley’s resourceful thriller, which provides a generous helping of sheer visceral thrills -- never over-ladling them but, just when you think they’re over, coming back with more... moment-by-moment excitement."


Stage thrillers rarely thrill.  Compared with cinema, their attempts at technical shocks and surprises are creaky.  Theatre throws emphasis on the actor, and therefore on character.  Plot-based thrillers need restricted individuality, which easily seems false in the theatre.  Novels leave scope for reader imagination to fill in a sense of reality; cinema creates it with background and location, plus swift cutting to some other part of the chase when things might get dodgy.  Theatre also destroyed the genre’s credibility from within.  Socially, the middle-class world of nasty things with an ultimate logical explanation depended upon a cozy audience consensus which became increasingly unstable.  And the great leap forward -- Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth - produced a focus on games-playing, and consequent audience rug-pulling, which became confirmed as the way ahead in such successful followers as Ira Levin’s Deathtrap and The Business of Murder.  Attempts to establish character-based thrillers have lead to cardboard cut-out motivation and vapid roles which actors try desperately to give a third-dimension, much harder to inject into a script on stage than on screen -- especially when so often they’re commercial tours led by TV-famed performers.  So it’s lovely to meet again Canadian Peter Colley’s resourceful thriller, which provides a generous helping of sheer visceral thrills -- never over-ladling them but, just when you think they’re over, coming back with more.  Things go bump in the night -- and worse -- often enough around this farmhouse, made remote by the victim’s nervous fragility.  Colley also has a satisfactory response to the problem that plotters as long ago as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers used every possibility of villain.  He doesn’t cheat on narrative.  John Adams’ direction gives us moment-by-moment excitement, and Colley’s play remains a creepy night out. 
Manchester Online


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