Horror on the Eastbourne stage as Sleepy Hollow hits town

Wendi Peters was straight out of the blocks and onto the stage the moment she could last May.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 7:05 am
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 is touring the country in her second post-pandemic job, a new adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which plays Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from November 23-27.

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

With Hallowmas fast approaching, Sleepy Hollow simmers with anticipation. Arriving as the new teacher, Ichabod Crane finds himself embroiled in the secrets and unsettling traditions of the locals.

However, all is not as it seems. When disturbing events overwhelm the small town, he finds himself swept up in a dangerous mystery which leaves him doubting his own sanity.

Transforming the American Dream into the American Gothic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow unleashes terror on the stage, directed by Jake Smith (The Hound of the Baskervilles; 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 is a great mix of live action and illusions and music and movement,” says Wendi. “And there is also comedy. It is also very funny. But also very spooky. It is a wonderful evening’s entertainment. It is all about myths and witches and we all have our own beliefs. You can take away from it what you want to!

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

“It is just really intriguing. I really wanted to do it. I haven’t really done this genre before at all. We are calling it a thriller and a horror. It is a folk horror really. And it has got a really good spooky atmosphere.”

The piece opened in Bromley at the end of September and tours through to early December, Wendi’s second job after the pandemic, following on from the musical in May.

She was on tour when the pandemic struck, on the road with a farce.

“That stopped and obviously it was all a bit of a shock. We all thought that we would just be off for a few weeks, but actually I was luckier than most. I have other things that I can do. I do quite a lot of voice-overs and I was able to carry on doing voice-overs from home. I was able to carry on working.”

As she says, it has been far tougher for those that are just starting out in the business, her own daughter for instance, a 2020 graduate: “But she has just managed to get a job.”

Sleepy Hollow director Jake Smith said: “Sleepy Hollow is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror stories ever written and a tour de force to stage.

“This production has at its heart the power of nomadic storytelling and gathering around the campfire for a good ghost story. It is an important story for now as we look at conversations around the identity of nations, communities and humankind throughout the world.

“This production has allowed an incredible ensemble of actors to viscerally and inventively bring the Hollow to life. It is a piece that shines on our actors’ athleticism which is really exciting as we look to theatre returning.

“We look forward to transporting the audience through a quest of logic and illusion, creating fear and defying expectation.”