Murder They Wrote!

Rehearsal  For Murder

Theatre Severn

Monday 27th June-Saturday 2nd July

 

The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s, “Rehearsal for Murder,” opened to a full house tonight in Theatre Severn. Here for the week it is highly likely that this show will bring in the big audiences as have other Bill Kenwright Productions throughout this theatrical year.

With a star studded cast the play explores a murder within a cast of actors, by the usual process of elimination the accuser works his way through all the suspects until the denouement reveals all at the very end.

It’s a straight forward  enough formula, it’s a very popular genre, the writers Levinson and Link have made their name in this genre by writing hit shows such as, Murder  she wrote, and Columbo, there are plenty of stars for fans of celebrity and it is one of the most popular television genres of the modern face of entertainment. It should be an absolute winner.  But …… and there are a few buts that we shall now explore.

Aesthetically the set was displeasing. Representing an old theatre, there was a lot of clutter such as furniture and a Doric column that served no real purpose. The overall appearance is almost sepia. Downstage furniture masked and even upstaged a lot of the action that  took place upstage and characters became blocked by a lighting trolley or a set of chairs. The back wall was brick build and added to the general unfriendliness of the piece.

This overall sombre feeling was created by the lack of colour and the costumes seemed to continue this idea as they were dull and uninspiring too.

The characters were on the whole a pretty unlikeable bunch. Whilst it held the audience engaged this was no Mousetrap. This is no classic.

Director Roy Marsden had some directorial decisions to make to maintain the style so unfortunately a lot of lines were delivered with actors facing upstage and consequently turning their backs on the audience. This is a device used to maintain the appearance of a fourth wall, but theatre is not TV. If an actor turns his back then the lines can be lost and the audience can begin to feel a disassociation with the text and the players.

This was not the case overall as the play did take the audience on a journey. With the red herrings keeping the audience guessing right until the end it provided more twists than a snake in a basket. However with such an unlikeable bunch of characters it wasn’t so much a case of whodunit but more who cares whodunit?

However, the cast is a strong one. It was interesting to see ex-hearthrob Mark Wynter (Venus in Blue Jeans) and singer star Anita Harris (Tuppeny Bus Ride) together, both of them great names for several decades both on the television and in the West End.

Alex Ferns (Trevor; East Enders) plays the much beleaguered Playwright Alex Dennison. He is the poor fellow left deeply bereaved after the Suicide/Murder of his leading lady and intended wife. Perhaps there was so much sorrow he didn’t like facing his audience as his character was held culpable for delivering his lines upstage, and on the odd occasion dropping his voice to a whisper.

There was no question that this is a highly skilled and highly professional cast. All of them have entered our lives through all mediums. They have been around on television, in music and on the West End for many years. The acting was superb as one would expect.

It is my recommendation that you go and see this show even if it’s to prove me wrong in your own mind. In the text there is a Shakespearean quote..they talk of the play being the thing. If that is the case then perhaps this time to get by they may have to realise that the play isn’t quite the thing: it is their skill and talent alone will make this a show that one ought to catch.

This is a three star review.

Owen J.Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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