Inside Job – June 2010

6/10

By Brian Clemens

Directed by Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Wednesday 9th June 2010

A decent thriller this, even though both Steve and I had worked out what was happening before the end. It’s set in Spain, where a husband and wife each hire the same ex-pat criminal to kill the other, promising insurance money and/or diamonds to pay for it. There were a couple of explosions, a bloody corpse, and more twists and turns than a mountain road. The cast all did a respectable job, with Matt Healy having more tongue in his cheek than the others. What with slurping drinks, rattling ice, and crinkling ice cream wrappers, the audience were almost noisier than the action on stage during the opening scene of the second half, but on the whole it was enjoyable enough.

The play starts with the wife, Suzy, having lured ‘Larry’ to the villa with the promise of sex, offering a completely different proposition. She’s found out that ‘Larry’ is, in fact, ‘Dutch’ Holland, a criminal on the run from the British police. She wants to get away from her husband, and persuades Dutch to return later to rob the safe – it’s supposed to have £100,000 worth of diamonds in it – and split the proceeds with her.

He agrees, but when he tries to carry out the robbery, the husband, Alex, surprises him, and despite being apparently shot and killed, manages to recover and turn the tables on the robber. The bullets were blanks, of course, but now Alex reloads with the real thing, and carries out the sort of conversation with Dutch that only ever happens in thrillers. Finally, he comes out with his own proposition – Dutch will carry out another robbery, only this time, Alex will have a cast-iron alibi and Suzy will be killed instead. The life insurance of £300,000 is dangled to tempt Dutch, but in reality he will have the diamonds which are not yet in the safe, but which will be arriving in a few days, and which are also, coincidentally, worth £300,000.

They do some planning then, and also the next day, when Alex sends Suzy off on a wild goose chase to pick up some cigars so that he and Dutch can confer alone. However, Dutch has already tipped Suzy off, and when she shows him letters from the insurance company which indicate that her life insurance has lapsed, but Alex’s cover is still active, it doesn’t take much brain power to work out where this one is going. There’s another twist, though, when Suzy returns from the cigar shop. After parking the car, she heads for the house and is nearly there when the car blows up! Who’s attempting to kill whom?

The second half starts about an hour after the explosion. Suzy has cleaned herself up, and Dutch is waiting with her while Alex is off dealing with the police. Dutch suggests killing Alex for the insurance money, explaining how he could set it up to give her the perfect alibi. He would come along, take the diamonds, kill Alex, and then tie her up so it will look like the robbers (she has to tell the police it was two men) were trying to get the combination of the safe out of her when Alex came back and was killed. It means she’ll have to wait through the night for someone to find her, but he’s even planned a reason for him to call the police to get them to come over and check up on Alex and find her. It seems like a foolproof plan, but can she trust him, and vice versa?

Then Alex comes up with another idea himself. His car is similar to the local mayor’s, and he suggested to the police that separatists may have targeted the mayor and blown up his car by mistake. He plans to use this to enhance the cover story they’ve been working on, but it means redirecting the police to think that he was the target of the car bomb all along. If only he could get a bomb! By an amazing coincidence, it turns out Dutch is a ‘bang-man’, specialising in bombs and fires, and he agrees to supply a small device so that Alex can blow up a yacht he has in the marina. When Alex sets off with the bomb, using Dutch’s car, both Steve and I wondered if the bomb would actually stay in Dutch’s car, to blow him up later, but a short while later there’s an explosion in the marina. So that’s alright, then. On the way back, Alex is picking up the diamonds, so the scene is almost set for the murder, but which one is going to be killed?

The final scene has the room in disarray, with Alex drinking wildly, when Dutch turns up. Apparently Alex has jumped the gun and killed Suzy already. He shows Dutch (and us) the dead body in the kitchen, behind the curtain, and offers him all the diamonds to help him out of the hole he’s dug for himself. Dutch agrees, and with some ties from the Alex’s wardrobe, he adapts the plan he outlined to Suzy for the new circumstances. Now it’s Alex who’ll be tied up, and will have to tell the police that two masked men burst in, demanded he open the safe, and then killed Suzy when she came back from her walk. Only it doesn’t work out that way.

Once Alex is safely trussed up, and Dutch has the diamonds and the loaded gun, he explains to Alex what’s really going to happen. I won’t go into all the details, but basically he’s going to cause a huge fireball in the room using some candles and a build-up of gas. No evidence will be left, and he’ll be free and clear. He gloats about as long as is safe, and then buggers off. As soon as he’s gone, Suzy comes out of the kitchen, blows out the candles and turns off the gas. As we’d suspected, Suzy and Alex were working together to bring Dutch to justice, since the British police had been unable to do so. In fact, Alex was a Detective Inspector, and Dutch had killed Suzy’s brother, so they both had a strong motive to nail him.

Having told the police that a suspected bomber was heading down the hill in a blue Mercedes, and with Dutch’s little bomb safely stowed in the boot (Alex had made his own for the marina explosion) they hope the police will either catch him and put him away for the rest of his natural, or get a bit trigger-happy and avoid the need for a trial. There is some machine-gun fire, as it happens, but Dutch gets away, and of course he ends up back at the villa to confront the duplicitous pair who tricked him. The gun still has blanks in it, and after firing at them, he collapses on the floor, revealing the three bullet holes in his back. The end.

We’d guessed most of this long before the end. We both wondered if Suzy would come to life before Dutch left, and kill him on his way out. He even stopped several times in front of the curtain, just to tease us, I suppose. That Alex and Suzy were working together to bring Dutch down occurred to each of us about half way through, although we didn’t know the details. An interesting challenge.

© 2010 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Strictly Murder – September 2009

6/10

By Brian Clemens

Directed by Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 4th September 2009

A nice twist at the end made this thriller a bit above average. I recognised the set from September Tide back in April 2007; there was a strange raised area at the back, with two steps down to the front of the stage, but only in one central place. Very distinctive. Fortunately, this piece was much better than that one.

Set in Provence in 1939, the play sets up the idea that the young man, Peter Meredith, living in the cottage with a young woman, Suzy Hinchcliffe, is not all he seems to be. There’s mention of some scars on his back which look like wounds caused by barbed wire, there’s speculation that there are German spies operating in France, and he seems to be keen to listen for news on the radio about the possibility of war. There’s an old German guy called Josef who wanders around taking food and leaving flowers and carrying a gun. Is he a German spy, or just an old man still suffering from the effects of his service in the First World War? Then a man called Ross comes calling, having recognised the style of painting that Peter produces, referring to the way his cell had been decorated with them, and Peter is forced to take some drastic steps to stay free.

That was in April 1939, and with the second half we move forward several months. Back in April Suzy had announced that she was pregnant, and Peter had been less than enthusiastic about the prospect. Now a man called Ross turns up again with a woman called Miller, and tells Suzy the story of who Peter really is and why it’s not safe for a young woman to be carrying his baby. He arranges with her to set a trap for Peter but will she be able to carry it out?

The Miller role was being played by Georgina Sutton tonight instead of Sabina Franklyn – a last minute thing, I suspect. All the performances were fine and despite one or two remarkable coincidences it was believable enough, with a bit more depth to the central characters. A good evening out.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me