Reviewed by Nigel Chester
Crossing the square towards the welcoming lights of Nottingham’s Theatre Royal we found, as always, a great atmosphere awaited us for the second in the Colin McIntyre season of Classic Thrillers to play at the theatre. Having found easy and reasonably priced parking and sampled a light meal and drinks, available both within the theatre and nearby. This is a vibrant part of a university city
Written by Francis Durbridge, a thoroughly good, well written whodunnit, with all the twists and turns one would expect and more red herrings than the former soviet fishing fleet. The carefully written plot has many intertwined characters, relationships and connections, incrimination and deceit run throughout and the final twist tantalises.
Set on a split stage, two room settings, alternate light and dark, the play opens in the flat of Larry Campbell (Jeremy Lloyd Thomas), unscrupulous businessman, womanizer and a man with a past and the enemies to prove it. I adored the 1970’s setting, this was the era of my childhood and I recognized so much, the Trim phone, what an icon that was, and how much my mum wanted one. The trill of it when it rang during the play was such a joy. Costume although mainly every day wear was spot on; Geoff Gilder, costume designer should be delighted with the results he achieved, the purple shirts with pointed collars and matching purple tank top were the height of sophistication back then and so helped with the immersive experience.
Clare Norman (Anna Mitcham) had the most perfect Diana Dors hair and used it in a typical ‘sex kitten’ manner. The roles were gender stereo typed in a way that the era was. Although we never met Roy Campbell’s wife Dilys, she was left at home with the children. Her input into the play and Roy’s life was large. I think the fact that she was compartmentalized as ‘housewife’ was a brilliant plot device.
These were middle class homes with middle class people. They had drinks cabinet, central heating and cars; it wasn’t the 1970’s that I quite remember.
A move to the home of lawyer David Ryder (Andrew Ryan) introduces further characters all with an axe to grind, Campbell had run away with Ryder’s wife, whose son had died in an accident, resulting in Ryder’s threat to kill Campbell, journalist Jo Mitchell (Sarah Wynne Kordas) was being blackmailed, worried that compromising letters may come to light. Ryder himself was also being pressured to provide cash, for “services rendered”, by former client George Rudd (Chris Sheridan)
Recently returned from America, having to cope with a dodgy deal for his brother Roy, blackmailing a journalist, Jo Mitchell and having to provide his mistress, unhappily married, scheming TV presenter Clare Norman, an acceptable excuse for his widely publicized dalliance with an American heiress. Larry’s shady dealings and past, blackmail, fraud and extra-marital goings-on finally catch up with him and lead to his death, in the presence of a dark figure.
The resulting police investigation, led by Inspector Cleaver (John Goodrum) was brilliantly played, imagine a mixture of “Frost” meets “Columbo” with a little “Monk”, on the side. His knack for turning up at the most inopportune moment (for others), was genius. So, in the end maybe we should liken other detectives to Cleaver. He got the largest laugh of the night and his reaction was brilliant.
Lies, mistruth and deception abounded, George Rudd was a dark and sinister character, a watcher in the night, intent on having power over his targets.
Planted evidence, efforts to thwart blackmail, alibis proved and disproved, all lead to a further murder and more suspects.
George Rudd’s last throw of the dice, an attempt to blackmail Clare Norman proved his undoing and was never going to end well. But end it did, with the most delicious twist that I truly didn’t see coming.
This is the second of the TAB productions that I have had the pleasure of seeing. The first being Mind Game.
Murder with Love had a great deal to live up to, but it certainly did. I am in awe of this type of theatre, where set is minimal but dialogue is key. How do actors manage to remember such large amounts of script? It has to be spot on, as there are clues to be had that help us become detectives for the evening.
I understand that the Theatre Royal is hosting four plays during its Classic Thrillers season 2019. Murder with Love was the first that I had attended, but following a brief conversation with my partner we have decided that we will return before the end of the run as this is great theatre, it’s the bread and butter of good solid acting, there are no unnecessary whistles and bells. It is the sort of production that by its nature you don’t notice the sound or the lighting, but I wish to assure you that every team member of the production cast was a consummate professional and their trade was so well crafted that although not noticeable, was pivotal and professional.
Tickets cost from £12 to £26 (booking fees may apply).
Murder with Love is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 6-10 August 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND