Horror on the Eastbourne stage as Sleepy Hollow comes to town

Wendi Peters by Craig Sugden
Wendi Peters by Craig Sugden

“I was in a musical as soon as we could reopen,” she says.

And now, she’s traveling the country in her second post-pandemic work, a new adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which plays Devonshire Park Theater, Eastbourne from November 23-27.

Washington Irving’s classic tale was adapted by playwright Philip Meeks (Murder, Margaret and I; Harpie), unleashing one of the horror canon’s most terrifying monsters on stage – the Headless Horseman.

With Hallowmas fast approaching, Sleepy Hollow is seething with impatience. Arriving as a new teacher, Ichabod Crane finds himself embroiled in the secrets and troubling traditions of the locals.

However, not everything is as it seems. When disturbing events overwhelm the small town, he finds himself plunged into a dangerous mystery that leaves him in doubt about his own sanity.

Transforming the American Dream into American Gothic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow unleashes terror on stage, directed by Jake Smith (The Hound of the Baskerville; A Christmas Carol; I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard), with illusions by Filipe J Carvalho (Back To The Future The Musical; Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things).

“It’s a great mix of live action and illusions, music and movement,” says Wendi. “And there is also the comedy. It is also very funny. But also very scary. It’s wonderful evening entertainment. These are myths and witches and we all have our own beliefs. You can get whatever you want out of it!

“And I think that’s one of the things that attracted me is that it’s quite rare to do a really good, high-level thriller in the theater. We all have our own main characters to play, but we’re all multi-role. There are six of us and we all have other characters that we play.

“It’s really intriguing. I really wanted to do it. I haven’t really done this genre before at all. We call it a thriller and a horror. It really is a popular horror. And there is a really good scary atmosphere.

The play debuted at Bromley in late September and runs until early December, Wendi’s second work after the pandemic, following the musical in May.

She was on tour when the pandemic hit, on the road with a prank.

“It stopped and obviously it was all a bit of a shock. We all thought we would be off for a few weeks, but in fact I was luckier than most. I have other things I can do. I do a lot of voiceovers and I was able to continue doing voiceovers from home. I was able to continue working.

As she says, it has been much more difficult for those new to the business, her own daughter for example, a 2020 graduate: “But she just managed to find a job.”

Sleepy Hollow director Jake Smith said, “Sleepy Hollow is without a doubt one of the greatest horror stories ever written and a feat to direct.

“This production has at its heart the power to tell nomadic stories and to gather around the campfire for a good ghost story. It’s an important story for now as we examine the conversations around the identity of nations, communities and humanity across the world.

“This production allowed an incredible array of actors to bring Hollow to life in a visceral and inventive way. It’s a play that shines on the athleticism of our actors, which is really exciting as we look at the theater’s return.

“We look forward to transporting audiences on a quest for logic and illusion, creating fear and defying expectations.”


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