Murder With Love – September 2008

6/10

By Francis Durbridge

Directed by Ian Dickens, co-directed by Leslie Grantham

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Friday 19th September 2008

An unpleasant character called Larry Campbell is given an apparently fatal heart attack, and is then killed later by being bludgeoned to death with a statue of Aphrodite. It’s a rum do, especially as we’ve seen a lawyer called Ryder plan to enter Campbell’s flat with an illegally obtained key and kill him using a revolver. It’s his attempt to carry out this plan that leads to Campbell’s heart attack, so we’re all surprised to find out the actual details of the murder which the police are investigating. The first half ended with the police inspector, Cleaver, producing the deadly statue, which we saw Campbell bring in to his flat at the beginning, and announcing that it was found in the boot of Ryder’s car. Looks like some devious stuff going on here. I did suggest to Steve that the director did it, as Marcus Hutton, who played Campbell, had quite a few long pauses in the first act while he reflected on what his next line might be. (Just joking.) (About the murder, that is, not the pauses.)

The second half showed us what really happened, though the plot has more turns than a corkscrew, and I really didn’t see the final twist coming at all. There were no “good” characters in this story, as just about everyone had at least one skeleton in their closet. There’s at least three dead bodies, and although the early exposition scenes were a bit lengthy I enjoyed this well enough. These Durbridge thrillers are certainly dated, but as long as I accept them as period pieces they work well enough. I noticed how the author got round the problems of body identification and reporting forensic details so the audience didn’t feel cheated. In fact, the extent to which he covered the forensics surprised me; I thought the fascination for the CSI approach was more recent. Obviously I’ve forgotten how far back it goes.

The set combined two spaces – Larry’s flat and Ryder’s office. I recognised Larry’s flat from A Touch Of Danger (September 2007), while Ryder’s office was all leather chairs and wooden furniture. The cast were fine, apart from Larry’s lapses mentioned above. As he was meant to be playing a chap with heart trouble, I wasn’t too sure at first if his memory had failed him or if it was deliberate, but I decided to go for the bitchy option this time. Neil Stacy was in fine form as the lawyer, Ryder, and it was nice to see Harriet Usher again. She played the maid Ida in See How They Run, only three weeks ago. This company certainly has the feel of an old-fashioned rep. This part was completely different, much more cool and sophisticated, though I noticed she still had a lovely throaty chuckle. Michael Kirk played Larry’s creepy brother Roy, the sort of chap who stands with his hands resting on the sides of his legs, and once Larry was gone, he would have been all over Clare, Larry’s lover, if she hadn’t kept brushing him off. Was he the murderer, or just a red herring? Leslie Grantham not only co-directed, he also played the police inspector Cleaver, and did a reasonable job. Not a bad way to spend an evening, all in all.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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