Part horror play, part period drama comedy, Nick Coyle serves up some outstanding M.R. James gothic realness in Queen of Wolves. He plays the simpering, coquettish heroine perfectly – Frances is a shy governess who has been sent to look after two children, but when she arrives at their sprawling country mansion, she finds three fresh graves outside instead. Despite being permanently terrified, Frances, dressed in a black bonnet and long dress as if she’s just demurely and apologetically tiptoed off the pages of a Jane Austen novel, ends up staying in the haunted house, with only assorted creepy things for company – ravens’ nests, broken jack in the boxes, smashed porcelain dolls.
Coyle does an amazing job of creating a cobwebby world of cholera and occult forces with his one (wo)man show. His florid, slightly absurd script is beautifully detailed and the comedy timing is spot on. He is utterly convincing as the science-loving, bookish Frances, who has ignored the warnings of the women who raised her in the orphanage, telling her that “academia will atrophy the uterus”.
Coyle also has some other skills up his prim, black embroidered sleeve, like when he slips into a possessed drag queen dance number with a cello solo, writhing about the stage and sensually slow humping the furniture, as Frances falls under the devil’s spell. A ghost story that takes place in the liminal, "thin place" between the worlds of comedy and theatre, it’s super smart, well-acted and bloody funny.