The Case of the Frightened Lady at Derby Theatre Review

17-22 September 2018

Reviewed by Nigel Chester

Derby Theatre is local for us and always a pleasure to attend. Car parking is directly under the theatre and after 5pm is only £2 for the entire evening, meaning that you arrive relaxed and ready to be entertained. There is both bar and café for light refreshments and being set within, but not part of the Intu Centre, you can make it a full day out. Its proximity to the Intu food court means that no patron need go hungry. Disability access to the theatre is relatively easy with lifts available. There are no restricted views and staff were polite, friendly and helpful.

The Case of the Frightened Lady by Edgar Wallace, better known for his creation of King Kong, lived up to all our expectations of a night at the theatre.

The play was set in 1932, coincidentally, the year of Wallace’s death, and had a simple set and a fast-paced plot. The set was the atrium of Mark’s Priory, the ancestral home of Lord Lebanon and his family, circumstances have reduced the number of staff for the estate, despite short appearances and limited dialogue, the characters were set and their development came later.

This bright and fast-paced start worked well as the darker forces of the play took hold.

There are two acts, each a little under an hour and there was a different feel to them both, equally good and necessary, but the second act was more gripping and therefore, more satisfying.

As an audience member, you are constantly being given clues that the two on-stage policemen are investigating. There is no principal character, as the symbiotic nature of the household ands staff is part of the success of the play – a classic “whodunit”.

Maybe, some of the actors are more well known than others and I must say, I spent some time thinking, I know his/her face, and was pleased to have the programme, reasonably priced at £3, to help me place the actors and actresses.

John Partridge, probably better known for his role in “EastEnders”, played Chief Superintendent Tanner with confidence, but for me, the stand-out performance was by Robert Duncan, portraying the family physician, Dr Amersham, he was lecherous, bombastic and pompous and made my skin crawl, as such he had all the attributes of the main suspect.

It was also satisfying to see that in spite of the era in which the play was written and set, that women were portrayed as principal  and strong characters, the performance of Deborah Grant as Lady Lebanon was extremely well executed, and the frightened lady in question, niece and secretary to Lady Lebanon, Isla Crane (Scarlett Archer) also had a mind of her own.

There were footmen, a butler, maids, outdoor staff and characters that were referred to, but remained unseen, there was plenty to keep you guessing, and the lady next to me actually clapped her hand to her mouth at the surprise of the reveal.

The Case of the Frightened Lady is a brilliant, good old fashioned, night at the theatre, a magic formula of good cast, production and direction, making for a solid production.

This was my first experience of Bill Kenwright’s “The Classic Thriller Theatre Company” and I will certainly be looking out for future plays.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £18.50 to£32.50 (booking fees may apply).

The Case of The Frightened Lady is at Derby Theatre from 17-22 September 2018, for more information or book tickets visit www.derbytheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01332 593939.

Derby Theatre, 15 Theatre Walk, St Peter’s Quarter, Derby, DE1 2NF | 01332 593939

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