The bottom line is death

Dee, Stone and Hallet

Victims all: Joanna Higson as Dee, Robert Gwylim as Stone and Paul Opacic as Hallet

The Business of Murder               

Malvern Theatres

****

LIKE a five-day Test match in cricket or a five-setter at Wimbledon, The Business of Murder is a bit of a slow-burner that takes some time to wind up, but as a result, creates a particularly powerful second act and climax to the evening.

The presence of just three players in the cast and lengthy dialogue in the first act adds to the challenge: we are kept waiting for the drama to really come alive after the Interval.

Stone, played by Robert Gwilym, is a calculating and somewhat disturbed character who decides he wants to exact a strange kind of revenge for being falsely accused of the murder of his ex-wife and son.

His resentment towards the detective who hounded and framed him and the journalist-turned-playwright who made capital out of his story means he wants to expose their current affair together, humiliate them and give them a dose of their own medicine.

Early on we begin to sense that Stone is unbalanced as well as nervy and excitable, despite the apparently ordinary behaviour towards Hallett and Dee most of the time, but after a while he is developing an increasingly macabre dimension.

Robert Gwilym’s performance as Stone was strong; his slightly unnerving and manic giggles from time to time, and sudden switches from the socially friendly to the threatening, were very effective though once or twice there was a hint of the melodramatic or farcical as well. His menacing manner, deliberately but slowly giving Dee the sense in act one that he might be about to kill her, was excellent.

Paul Opacic’s performance as Hallet was first class. The tough and rather cynical detective was brilliantly portrayed without being over-cooked. He was totally convincing and his selfish behaviour towards his mistress seemed entirely natural. Dee, played by Joanna Higson, was equally powerful. Her vulnerability was carefully measured.  She was a powerful and insightful balance to Hallett’s tough cop exterior.

The design for the show was excellent. The projected scene of a suburban and residential street in the late seventies or early eighties above the set added a sense of perspective and wider context of great normality.

The set itself was a very satisfying cross-section of the bed-sit occupied by Stone. The variety of intriguing props – rubber gloves, carving knives, bloodied towel all concealed in a mysterious trunk  - add to the questions surfacing in the minds of the audience. The lighting was effectively used to suggest the times of day or evening. The whole effect supported the performers without distracting our attention from their actions and dynamics.

The play overall is quite long but after the exposition and preparation of the first act, the intensity and drama of the second was excellent and it developed to a highly theatrical climax. It is something of an intellectual teaser reminiscent of Sleuth! Is Richard Harris making any serious points about our criminal justice system and the role of press and the arts? Probably not! He just wants to pose the usual puzzles for the audience to figure out what is happening between the lines and the characters, and get us on the edge of our seats by the end of the play. He provides a very entertaining evening which deserves good houses through the week. To 27-06-15

Tim Crow

23-06-15 

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