Write Me A Murder By Frederick Knott
Director: Ian Dickens
Reviewer: Ian Cain
The penultimate offering of Ian Dickens’ Summer Repertory Season is a good old-fashioned murder mystery entitled ‘Write Me A Murder’ by Frederick Knott.
The action takes place at Rodingham Manor, the ancestral home of the Rodingham family. As the story begins, the death of the elderly Lord Rodingham is imminent. His eldest son and heir, Clive (Paul Opacic), can hardly contain his glee at the thought of inheriting the title and, more importantly, the vast estate which he intends to sell to Charlie Sturrock (Leslie Grantham), an unscrupulous entrepreneur who was a humble grocer’s delivery boy in his youth.
Clive’s younger brother, David (Christopher Villiers), leads a contrastingly modest life. He lives on a houseboat, writes crime novels for a living and wants to see the estate remain in the Rodingham family for at least another five hundred years.
As the two brothers pace the living room floor of their childhood home, the tension mounts. They wait for news of their father’s condition from Dr Elizabeth Woolley (Helen Weir), the family’s trusted physician, and quarrel about the fate of the family home. Strangely, neither of the brothers seem too concerned about the fate of their father. Perhaps this is more telling than it first seems.
During the course of the first act, David discovers that Sturrock’s meek and mild wife, Julie (Maxine Gregory), is an aspiring writer who, despite dozens of attempts, has never been published. This comes in very useful for Charlie who seizes the opportunity to pay David to provide her with some private tuition, thus detracting his attention from the dodgy sale deal that he is negotiating with Clive.
It isn’t long before David and Julie’s collaboration produces a story that centres around how to commit the perfect murder and get away with it. As Charlie Sturrock’s behaviour towards his wife becomes increasingly worse and it looks as though he has coerced Clive into relinquishing the family estate for only a fraction of its true value, it looks as though the temptation may be to transfer the plot into reality.
The play is engaging and portrayed well, as the action moves quickly and twists and turns are thrown in frequently. David North has designed a set that is substantial and convincing, comprising a main living room which offshoots a staircase and a study. Ancestoral paintings adorn the walls above the fireplace and the furniture is convincingly antique.
Generally speaking, the performances are of a good standard. However, from a casting point of view I am not sure why Paul Opacic plays the older brother and Christopher Villiers the younger, when in reality Opacic is Villiers’ junior by twenty-two years! As far as I could tell, both actors were talented enough to have been cast in the others role without it detrimentally affecting the success of the play.
But, I do not wish to deliberately pick holes in the production by concentrating too much on detail. On balance, ‘Write Me A Murder’ is an entertaining, intriguing and perfectly enjoyable evening’s theatre.
‘Write Me A Murder’ runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 27th June 2009