By Frederick Knott
Directed by Ian Dickens
Company: Ian Dickens Productions
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: Tuesday 16th June 2009
This was the only Frederick Knott play we hadn’t seen, so we were keen to add it to our list. The plot takes place in an old country house, part of a large estate which has been run down over the years. The set showed the study/sitting room, with a section of it walled off to the right. This part had a door or French windows out to the gardens, a filing cabinet, table and chair, and lots of bookcases with some guns displayed on the wall near the front. The door to the other part of the room was towards the back. The sitting room had a door to the kitchen on the left, next to the large fireplace. There were French windows centre back leading to the garden and we could see a sundial just outside them. There were chairs and a desk, and we could also see the stairs up to the bedrooms at the back on the left which was also the way to the front door. There was lots of wood panelling, and various family portraits hung about the place.
The plot concerned the sale of the house by its current owner the Honourable Clive Rodingham to Charles Sturrock, a businessman who’s made pots of money but who started out with nothing more than a chip on his shoulder when he lived in the very village they can see from the windows of this house. He’s mad keen to buy up the big house and become the lord of the manor, getting his own back on all the posh folk who he felt looked down on him all those years ago. He’s brought his young wife with him, Julie. She’s trying to be a writer, and as Clive’s younger brother David is an established author and has finally turned up now that his brother’s told him their father’s dead, Sturrock rather menacingly suggests that David help Julie out with her story which he agrees to do.
She’s attempting to win a short story competition in the newspapers; a small prize, but given her husband’s crushing contempt for her abilities it’s a big step for her. David mainly writes thrillers and detective stories so they start to work out a murder plot. Clive, meanwhile, is off to America to schmooze his prospective in-laws; he’s nabbed a rich US woman and hopes to live a life of contented luxury for many a year to come. There’s also a Doctor pottering around, Elizabeth Woolley, an old family friend as well as the local GP, and still as sharp as a pin. A good mix of characters, with a number of possibilities.
The plot was a little bit clunky, with lots of room for things to go wrong, but it was enjoyable enough. It felt like an attempt to reprise Dial M For Murder; it wasn’t quite up to that standard, although the final twist was lovely to watch. Some decent performances, and a reasonably good night all in all.
© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me