Thursday, 26 February 2009

Murder with Love - Darlington Civic Theatre

Murder With Love by Francis Durbridge
Director: Ian Dickens
Co-Director:Leslie Grantham

Reviewer: Ian Cain

It seems that we British have a love affair with the whodunit. Only The Bible has outsold Agatha Christie’s collected sales of approximately four billion copies of her novels! If Christie reigns as Queen of Crime then, surely, Francis Durbridge must be King.

Ian Dickens Productions, renowned for their stylish and sophisticated stage adaptations, bring Durbridge’s intense and gripping thriller, Murder With Love, to Darlington Civic Theatre.

The stellar cast is led by Leslie Grantham, as the irascible but dogged detective Cleaver, and Neil Stacy, as barrister David Ryder.

Although the dialogue is wordy and the plot complex, Murder With Love is a great thriller. All the necessary elements are woven into the storyline – there’s deceit, suspicion, blackmail, incrimination and a few red herrings for good measure, too.

The action takes place in the late 1970s and is split across two locations: the study of David Ryder and the living room of Larry Campbell’s flat. Alan Miller-Bunford remains true to form in designing a set that is not only extremely functional, but also one that looks stunning, too. The way the action switched from one location to the other was effectively done with only a change of lighting.

Louise Falkner gave a convincing portrayal of a Fleet Street gossip columnist whose nose for a story places her in mortal danger and Jacqueline Roberts also shines as a femme-fatale television personality. Marcus Hutton puts in a nice performance as love rat Larry Campbell and Edward Thorpe seemed comfortable in the part of his brother, Roy.

However, it is Mark Booth, as the sinister and detestable George Rudd, who delivered the best performance. His portrayal of the cockney crook is carefully crafted and perfectly executed.

As the play progresses, you can’t help but become engrossed in the plot. As I paid careful attention to the twists and turns and attempted to deduce the identity of the murderer, I was caught completely off-guard by the twist at the end. And that’s exactly what a good thriller should do!

Murder with Love runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Sat 28th Feb 2009
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