An unconvincing arrangement

A Murder Has Been Arranged

Malvern Theatres

**

WITH a mix of murder, suspense and a ghost story, this play had all the promise on paper of being a nail-biting thriller, but ended up as deadly dull.

The pace never picked up throughout the two and a half hour show and despite a splattering of the usual murder mystery caricatures, it was hard to care much for their fate by the end of the play.

A Murder Has Been Arranged, written by Emlyn Williams and first shown in 1930, culminates in Sir Charles Jasper commandeering a theatre for the night to host his 50th birthday with his young wife, her sour-puss mother, the secretary and the elderly loyal maid.

We quickly hear how Sir Charles is fascinated by an old ghost story involving the theatre and that when he turns 50 that evening, he will inherit a fortune – with the only rival to the inheritance, a young man called Maurice Mullins, who has not been seen or heard for years.

But when Maurice turns up unexpectedly, the evening takes a turn for the worse.

With a plot like that, it could have screamed out tension and fright, but the lack of tempo and atmosphere reduced it to a drawn-out sigh of missed opportunity.

You know things are going wrong when a scene that should have been chilling to the bone – a mute girl entering the stage in a repeat of an age-old curse - results in the audience laughing. 

Managing to lift the show from his appearance at the end of scene one, actor Oliver Mellor (better known as Dr Matt Carter in Coronation Street) was the strongest performer in a motley crew of cast members. They included well known faces, such as Anita Harris and Karen Ford (the art teacher Miss Booth in Grange Hill during 1980s), while Sir Charles was played by former QVC shopping channel presenter Paul Lavers.

The real issue though was that with so many dark, expertly choreographed thrillers around, this play just looked pale in comparison. To 17-08-13

Alison Brinkworth 

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