Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Fatal Encounter Review Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

Fatal Encounter
Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
29 Sept-3Oct 2009
(Performance seen 29 Sept)
Cast in order of appearance

Howard Mansfield - Michael Howe
Hilary Van Zale - Miranda Magee
Grace Kingsley - Susan Skipper
Joanna Mansfield - Anita Harris
Mark Adler - Neil Stacy
Perry Kingsley - Aaron Bixley
Chris Coldwell - Nicholas Ball
Rex Winter - Michael Kirk
Policeman - Matthew Carrington

What an incredible line up of actors this is for this Francis Durbridge murder-mystery.

Nicholas Ball

On many occasions you get just one famous name from the TV as a headline grabber. But for this production we get many familiar names all of whom contribute to a very pleasing production.

Former "Hazell" star Nicholas Ball , perhaps unsurprisingly, investigates the mysterious death of the victim. Naturally its a role which suits him down to the ground.

Neil Stacy returned to the Devonshire Park having previously been in the impressive Murder with Love back in October 2008. It's funny that you'd most probably associate Neil with the TV comedy series Duty Free but he does seem extremely well suited to the more sinister murder / dramatic roles. Susan Skipper, who was also in a long running TV comedy - Don't wait up - is another addition to the star line up. As is Anita Harris who is not only a familar face at the Devonshire Park but also a valued and respected patron of the Friends Of The Devonshire Park Theatre. Michael Howe (star of Solo, Hollyoaks and a long list of other TV shows) completed the line up of major TV stars in this production.

Michael Howe and Anita Harris

However the other actors are no less impressive and at least 2 have previously appeared at the Devonshire Park these being Michael Kirk (who had joined Neil Stacy in Murder with Love) and Aaron Bixley (last in the comedy See How They Run - August 2008).

Fatal Encounter is not so much of a whodunnit - more of a "whytheydiddit". It's more along the Columbo style mystery where you know who commits the crime from the start. The rest of the time is spent investigating how the murder actually arose.

There are twists, there are turns and the acting is great.

Neil Stacy

However. I can't help feeling that Durbridge ended up making this plot ever so slightly over complicated. I guess he did this to add to the tension and the mystery but in obtaining the intricate details of who was initially behind the circumstances of this murder the viewer is led down a winding path of facts and links between all the characters.

Susan SkipperIt would be easy for the audience member to literally lose the plot if they were distracted for a short while. It's a plot that needs concentration right to the very end.

Also somewhat irritating is the number of times, both before and after the interval, the safety curtain has to come down for a pause of a couple of minutes.

These seem to be pauses just to add to the tension rather than for prop movement - it does not work - and is not necessary.

It is a good play though. Personally I have to say that Murder With Love would have the edge on this as it had more by way of tense dramatic moments and a far less complicated plot.

However it is still a good drama finely acted by a very impressive cast.

3 out of 5 for Fatal Encounter

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