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

A Touch Of Danger – September 2007

6/10

By Francis Durbridge

Directed by Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Wednesday 19th September 2007

This was an enjoyable thriller, an average Francis Durbridge which was showing its age but still gave us some fun and a bit of a puzzle. The set was pretty standard. Windows centre back, with a desk in front, and the usual angled walls, with one doorway to our right, and two doors to our left. Bookcases, chairs, tables and assorted pictures gave us a suitable setting for an eighties flat belonging to an author, Max Telligan (Simon Ward). He writes novels, rather than crime thrillers.

First we met the secretary Liz, and the (separated) wife Harriet (Sandra Dickinson), who gave us the basic setup. Max and Harriet are living apart, their daughter is nearly eighteen and wanting to branch out on her own. The secretary’s only been with the author for a couple of years, and seems to be the sensible, straightforward type. The wife was a bag of nerves, and probably would be difficult to live with. The fun started when the daughter phoned up (was it only 20 years ago we had such cumbersome telephones?) to tell them she’s heard an announcement on the radio that Max has been found dead in a car just outside Munich, where he’d been staying for a few days. They’re trying to get more information when Max himself turns up, just returned from the airport. What is going on?

From here we go on a circuitous route through terrorist plots and secret service agents until the real villain was finally unmasked. I considered lots of possibilities as we went and I only just picked the right person before they were revealed to us. It was nice to see a piece that was elaborate enough to have lots of options. It did take a while to get going, as there was a lot of background to set up, but it still passed the time very well, and had some lovely funny lines, such as Digby’s response when Max complained that the villain had a gun – “That’s a risk we had to take”. (Digby (Neil Stacy) was the clean-up man.)

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me