Written by Simon Brett, a writer of whodunits, Murder in Play is a comedy thriller with the usual oddballs and red herrings. The main plot device is ‘a play within a play.’ The play opens on the final rehearsals of 'Murder at Priorswell Manor'.
Things are not going well. There is tension on the set. Then to top it all fiction becomes reality when a leading member of the cast is murdered, a lethal dose of parquet. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Sophie Lawton (Gemma Bissix) and Tim Ferner (Dean Gaffney) to play detective. The stage, a drawing room with all the essential exits, is set for a murder mystery.
There were strong performances all round, however firstly mention must go to Alison Mead as Renee. She remained superbly stalwart despite her treatment by her serial philanderer husband and Director, Boris Smolensky (David Callister). In addition, Katy Manning (Christa D’Amato, Mrs Puttock) and Richard Tate (Harrison Bracewell, Mr Papadopoulos) showed that both have a great talent for both verbal and physical comedy. Their entrances, exits, and subsequent stage play added the necessary comic touch to the drama. If anything, I thought Katy Manning was underused but I cannot argue with Brett’s script. That leads me to another point.
There felt in the final act that there was too much exposition as if desperately trying to fill in the plot holes. It was often confusing, talking of events that we had not witnessed. When was Ginette (Poppy Meadows) arrested for the crime? Who is Detective Inspector Bob Brewer? It felt awkward. It did not have the momentum of the earlier acts.
Many of the cast were in A Murder Is Announced that toured earlier this year. That had some of the same faults. Nevertheless, as I said, that is not the cast or the Director’s fault. Everyone here worked together superbly performing in dual roles and delivered a great production, even though at times it was baffling, well to me anyway.
Nevertheless, it was entertaining and an excellent showcase for the younger actors who are probably more at ease in front of a camera than being on a stage.
Reviewed at The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke part of Anvil Arts for Remotegoat website.
Brought to the stage by Ian Dickens Productions Directed by Ian Dickens