MURDER IN THE SMALL HOURS: Francis Durbridge.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 11th August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays and 8.00pm Sat (Matinees 2.00pm Weds and 5.00pm Sat).
Review: Alan Geary: 6th August 2012.
Durbridge, but grittier than usual. Entertaining stuff.
Like it or not, no Classic Thriller Season in Nottingham seems complete without Francis Durbridge. But Murder in the Small Hours isn’t your usual Durbridge.
The play comes complete with that sofa and well-used drinks table certainly. But it’s a late one – his penultimate – and it’s located not in London or the Home Counties but near Chichester. It’s gritty, with a terrorist, a potential hijacker, in it; and nobody calls anyone else “darling”. Moreover, since it begins on a flight from Australia to England, there are two sets.
The plot involves the possibility of a toy koala bear being used to send drugs or valuables in the luggage of hotelier Carl Houston (Nicholas Briggs). There’s also a lot of blackmail and guns.
The late eighties period is well realised, partly by Patric Kearns’s sound – he also directs – but most joyously by Geoff Gilder’s outstanding set and costumes. The most outrageous of the latter are worn by Jo Castleton in the otherwise small part of Houston’s secretary Ruth. At one point she turns up for her less than arduous duties in the shortest of tight black dresses, blindingly red tights and black shoes with stilettos as high as stilts. There should be a law against it.
There are super performances all round, most obviously perhaps from Chris Sheridan, as Ronnie Sheldon, John Hester (Westwood) and Karen Henson (Vanessa Houston). Sheridan’s airborne scene with Briggs is beautifully suggestive and enigmatic, as it is when he catches the eye of Castleton. Hester’s investigator, as we might expect, is splendidly snoopy and insinuating; and Henson is straightforward and non-eccentric for a change, not a scratchy pair of tights to be seen.
Jeremy Lloyd Thomas’s hotel chef is splendidly seedy despite his fame in the business. There’s a nice moment when Hester’s investigator opines they’ve met before. “Really?” he says, I don’t recall” but he looks so broken down your heart goes out to him.
In the context of a varied Thriller Season a dash of Durbridge goes down well. Certainly, the audience liked this one.
Ronnie Sheldon: Chris Sheridan.
Carl Houston: Nicholas Briggs.
George Westwood: John Hester.
Vanessa Houston: Karen Henson.
Millie Decker: Susan Earnshaw.
Bernard Decker/Terrorist: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Ruth Wyatt: Jo Castleton.
Oliver Radford: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Director/Sound: Patric Kearns.
Set and Costume Designer: Geoff Gilder.
Lighting: Michael Donoghue.
DSM: Angie Spencer.
ASM: Alison Wilcox.