The cast ready for judgement. Picture: Mark Yeoman
A Judgement in Stone
The New Alexandra Theatre
FANS of prolific author Ruth Rendell will love this adaptation of A Judgement In Stone from The Classic Thriller Theatre Company.
It is set in 1978 in Suffolk at the country home of the overtly middle class Coverdale family, which is represented by the beautiful Baronial set.
This is a property of great distinction owned by successful businessman George Coverdale, (Mark Wynter) and his second wife, the social butterfly Jacqueline, (Rosie Thomson) who are happy to engage a replacement housekeeper to assist in maintaining their stately pile, Lowfield Hall.
However, when Eunice Parchman, (Sophie Ward) accepts the post, it is patently obvious that untold glitches haunt the working class, reserved, down to earth housemaid.
The story begins with Detective Superintendent Vetch, (Andrew Lancel) and his colleague, Detective Sergeant Challoner, (Ben Nealon) interviewing Miss Parchman regarding the murder of George, Jacqueline and their two grown up children, Melinda Coverdale, (Jennifer Sims) and her stepbrother, Giles Mont, (Joshua Price).
Throughout, the action is fluid and slick. Transition from the time of the murders to relevant snippets from the past, create the story as a tapestry woven with deceit, blackmail and jealousy, culminating in the fatal demise of the family. Actors move seamlessly from scene to scene, swiftly making their exits and entrances through the various doors and archways.
There are some 'red herrings' to keep the audience guessing as to who the murderer actually is, thus adding the injection of mystery into the plot.
Jean Smith, (Deborah Grant) as the Bible quoting, nosey postmistress and only close friend of Miss Parchment. Eva Baalham, (Shirley Anne Field) the former housekeeper. Roger Meadows, (Antony Costa) part time gardener and petty criminal complete the fine cast.
Excellent acting all round especially Sophie Ward whose characterisation was consistent and at times, disturbing.
A good enjoyable play with plenty of thought provoking twists and turns with the finger of suspicion pointing at several of the cast. Alas, there are a lot of unanswered questions to this story, which give more detail in the original book. Perhaps this explains why the ending is a little flat and lack lustre when usually, in a play of this genre, the final scene provides a fitting climax.
Nonetheless, Ruth Rendell followers won't be disappointed with this production directed by Roy Marsden and produced by Bill Kenwright, and they will have ample opportunity to catch the show which runs until 25-02-17.
Elizabeth M Smith and Rosemary Manjunath