Planning death by proxy

cast f the business of murder

Joanna Higson as Dee, Robert Gwilym as Stone and Paul Opacic as Hallett

The Business of Murder

Lichfield Garrick

****

MURDER is a funny old business or at least it has a few smiles about it in this revival by Middle Ground of Richard Harris’s psychological thriller.

The plot builds relentlessly a bit like a dripping tap through the first two scenes and it is not until the second act that the picture starts to emerge with every t crossed and every i dotted.

Then just when we think the whole thing has reached its zenith and we get ready to go home, in comes the twist to knock down everything that had gone before – with more dotting and crossing . . . and just as we prepare to leave again, a final sting to change the picture yet again.

Harris’s three hander was written and set in 1981 and director Michael Lunney has designed a solid, authentic looking period set of a suburban London flat of the era, complete with radio and TV snatches of the time; but although, a large street panoramic backdrop above the set might help to set the period it does look a little odd.

There are so many period references it would take a major rewrite to change the period to the modern day so for many in the audience it is also a trip down memory lane – hands up those who remember Barlow and Watt in Softly, Softly?

Into the flat enter Mr Stone, played beautifully by Robert Gwilym, who has called the police, in the shape of Det Supt Hallett, played by Paul Opacic, with information that could help trap a notorious drug gang.

HARD-BITTEN COPPER

Opacic gives us a wisecracking, cynical, hard-bitten copper who might walk around in a three piece suit as the guv’nor but is still an old fashioned copper at heart, and before the night is out we will see what sort of copper he really is.

Gwilym’s Stone is a different kettle of fish, a little subservient, too eager to please perhaps, and apologising profusely when things do not seem to be going to plan except when he is alone . . . then we see him busying himself purposefully around the flat, filling a holdall with all manner of items, even finding time to dance to Judith Durham and The Seekers on the radio. He is obviously plotting something, but what? All we know is that his high-pitched giggle whenever something pleases him marks him out as likely nutter.

The second act introduces Dee, played by Joanna Higson, a former weekly reporter who found fame with a TV play, The Burden of Guilt, and is now a thriller writer. She has been invited around by Stone to give some advice and encouragement to his dying wife, who has written a murder mystery.

Higson takes us from the confident young woman doing a favour for a man’s dying wife to anxiety when she finds the man is on a less than even keel and then fear as the night unfolds once Hallett reappears after being told by Stone that his evidence will be available that night.

The plot revolves around what connects the three of them and to give more away would act as a spoiler, let’s just say you are never quite sure whether the final scene was the plan all along, or Stone’s improvisation to deal with changing circumstances.

It is well acted by all three TV regulars who create credible characters and Lunney has kept up a good pace but it is all a bit wordy at times, with the pudding over egged with excessive detail on several occasions, running almost two and a half hours with interval.

It never became tedious, or had you looking at your watch, which might have been the case with a less able director, but there are times when you think a point has been made can we move on please, which is script rather than cast or director.

There were a couple of holes in the meticulously crafted plot, one a glaring one which comes apparent with the first twist to the storyline,  but you will have to spot that for yourselves, but all in all it is a well produced, well designed and well acted, entertaining thriller with a clever storyline and not just one but two stings in the tail. To 04-04-15

Roger Clarke

31-03-15

The Business of Murder is at Malvern Theatre 23-27 June

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