Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Murder With Love, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, 14th October 2008

CAST (In order of appearance)

Larry Campbell - Marcus Hutton
Jo Mitchell - Harriet Usher
Mrs Bedford - Katie Evans
Ernest Foster - Christopher Wright
David Ryder - Neil Stacy
George Rudd - Stephen Beckett
Roy Campbell - Michael Kirk
Clare Norman - Jacqueline Roberts
Cleaver - Leslie Grantham

I had a bit of a 2008 deja vu feeling with this murder mystery on opening the programme. We'd already seen Leslie Grantham, Jacqueline Roberts, Katie Evans and Harriet Usher all having already appeared in completely different productions at this theatre in 2008

With every murder mystery there are normally numerous red herrings, twists and turns, and unexpected endings.

Murder with Love is no exception to the above. But as regards to the ending I can honestly say I simply did not see it coming. I don't think the rest of the audience did either. A very clever piece of writing by Francis Durbridge under the direction of Ian Dickens.

As regards to the plot I never spoil anything for those who will see this in the future so anything else I say will not spoil the ending or tell you whodunnit.

As has been the case so many times this year this show was performed to a pathetically small Devonshire Park Theatre audience. Only the second night, yet 6 people in the front row stalls, NOBODY in the second row , and as a guesstimate no more than 100 in total scattered around the whole theatre.

Nothing can be blamed on the casting, the play itself is excellent, it's well acted and the story is believable. As usual the low attendance can only go down to poor advertising, an ignorance of the young that theatre is an OAP thing and an obsession that watching some absolute trash on TV is better entertainment. Me? I prefer real living people, who I can watch acting without the benefit of retakes.

Take this thriller for example. In a tense moment Clare Norman had to phone David Ryder. Of course the telephone was meant to ring but instead a stage hand (or is that former stage hand now?) switched on the sound of a radio that had been previously used. It raised a good laugh from the audience as Clare (Jacqueline Roberts) after initially giving a slightly confused look carried on as a true professional would. OK you can see out-takes on TV but I prefer in-takes to out-takes!

The cast members

I'll cover the 4 cast members I've already seen this year first.

Leslie GranthamLeslie "Dirty Den" Grantham. It's funny but I always find that some of the artists the national press do their utmost to destroy are always some of the nicest to meet. I told Leslie that I thought the serious role of detective Cleaver suited him better than his comedy role in Dad's Army, earlier in the year. He seemed quite delighted by this and now I've seen he co-directed Murder With Love I can see why this comment went down well.

Being serious,mean and nasty on stage just seems to suit some actors, I think Leslie falls in that category.

Katie Evans as Mrs Bedford. Only a couple of months earlier we had seen Katie playing a teacher in Daisy Pulls it Off. I have to say we hated that, so called, hilarious comedy. There was nothing wrong with the acting - we just found the story awful.

It was therefore refreshing to see Katie in Murder with love playing secretary Mrs Bedford. It isn't a major role by any means but I found this performance more rewarding.

Harriet UsherHarriet Usher stars as Jo Mitchell. In this play Harriet's role is about as far away as she could ever get from the character she played in the comedy See How They Run earlier in the year. In that she was a hilarious bumbling maid and although she was by no means the leading star in that play you just couldn't forget her excellent, completely scatty, comedy performance.

As reporter, Jo Mitchell, Harriet's role is a much more "straight acting" role delivered in a very clear, rather posh, manner. It's great to see that Harriet can adjust so easily from comedy to serious acting and that she does both so very well.

However, out of the two performances, this year, her performance as "nutty Ida" will be the one that sticks in the memory more possibly because I loved the funny voice she had to deliver throughout.

Jacqueline RobertsThe delightful, Jacqueline Roberts as Clare Norman. Only a couple of months earlier she was cast in The Business Of Murder, playing Dee, and the year before in the thriller Dangerous Corner as Olwen Peel. Whilst Jacqueline has a wide range of theatre and TV credits the subject of murder does seem to crop up with amazing regularity.

Perhaps this is simply because she does these types of mystery thriller roles so incredibly well? When we saw The Business of Murder she had, in real life, badly injured her foot. Yet the show went on with the injury being written, very cleverly, into the play. We were very impressed with that performance and were therefore delighted to see her in the programme for Murder With Love.

Jacqueline was equally as excellent in this play and I would not hesitate in booking to see the next production she appears in.

Fortunately, she may be well suited to playing the roles of bad girls and murder suspects, but she is nothing like that in real life.

We have now met her twice this year and Jacqueline is always so friendly and chatty. It was also good to see her foot had made a complete recovery from the nasty accident she had.

One amusing thing we noticed in Murder With Love is when she walks on wearing underwear that leaves very little to the imagination. You always get the gasps from many female audience members at a moment like this. Whist the husbands and boyfriends stay dead silent and pretend to look elsewhere ,probably from fear of getting an elbow in the ribs!!

Nice to see you again Jacqueline - hope to see much more of you again soon (whether I should have written that line straight after the last paragraph is open to debate).

The rest of the cast I don't believe I've ever seen before on the stage.

Neil Stacy Neil Stacy will always be remembered for his role in the long running 1980's comedy Duty Free. In Murder With Love Neil plays a lawyer, David Ryder, a man determined to take revenge on Larry Campbell, who he believes destroyed his family.

This is a role he plays with conviction and I found him to be believable throughout. I will now think twice if I am ever in the position to need a solicitor who looks anything like Stacy!

Marcus Hutton. The murder victim ,Larry Cambell, is played admirably by Hutton. With an "I've upset so many people in my life" background. And a history of having more fingers in more dodgy pies than Little Jack Horner there are no shortage of suspects for detective Cleaver to investigate.

Stephen Beckett. The former Corrie star (Dr Matt Ramsden), clad in leather, plays bad boy serial blackmailer, George Rudd. My personal view is that he does a very good job of it too. That is to say he does a very good job at not being very good at blackmail! Whilst this murder mystery is far removed from a comedy it could be said that the character of Rudd is somewhat comical with his lack of ability to follow through his threats.

Michael Kirk - Roy Campbell. Roy is the brother of victim Larry Campell. This is the one casting in this play I don't think really works. The impression given is that Roy (who is another suspect) has a bit of a soft spot for Jacqueline Robert's character Clare Norman. This married man is a bit of a slime-ball who, following the death of his brother, turns his dubious charms to Clare Norman with a touch here and there and some rather sickly kisses on the cheeks (fortunately of the facial variety).

The trouble is Clare Norman is a rather tall dominant woman. Roy Campbell is a rather short, seemingly meek, man. The thought that he could ever dominate Clare's character is simply pie-in-the-sky. I reckon if this was a real situation Clare Norman would just "punch Roy's lights out"and leave him physically uncapable of making any sort of sexual advance ever again.

Christopher Wright - Ernest Foster. As solicitor Ernest Foster, and yes another potential suspect, Christopher Wright does a fine job of bringing the character to life. In addition to an impressive list of theatre credits his TV appearances have included Wire In The Blood, The Royal, Emmerdale, Doctors, Holby City, Coronation Street and many more.

To sum up this is a great mystery thriller well worth going to see. I'm sure that, for the vast majority of people who see this, your bet at the interval as regards to "Whodunnit?" will probably turn out to be completely and utterly wrong.

Print This Entry

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you in advance for your show comment or feedback