by Janet Green.
Theatre Royal Theatre Square NG1 5ND To 17 August 2013.
Sat 5pm & 8pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0115 989 5555.
Review: Alan Geary: 12 August.
Hugely entertaining – but interesting and unusual with it.
Quite apart from the fact that it’s hugely entertaining, Murder Mistaken is interesting and unusual.
Firstly, we don’t get all those doorbells and ringing telephones: here, instead, it’s the sound of cars arriving and departing. Secondly, until nearly the end the play is realistic; you don’t feel you’re in Thrillerland. There were actually many real-life murders like this, some of them serial, during the period – this was written and set in the early fifties. Then, and earlier, there was a surplus of comfortably-off spinsters and widows short of an eligible man.
Arguably, one of the key insights of the play is based on implausibly insufficient information, but we can excuse that.
There’s no stage copper. Instead, again realistically, there’s an astute and sceptical solicitor (Andrew Ryan). It’s not a whodunit but a will he get away with it? – the “he” in question being Edward Bare, who’s married to an elderly woman and plans to bump her off for her dosh.
Right from the start you just know he’s a wrongun: he’s got a moustache, and he effects that bogus-sounding oleaginous accent you associate with the period. But Bare’s not just your thorough-going rotter: he’s complex, a properly rounded character, all of which is admirably brought out by Chris Sheridan.
Wife Monica, done in a beautiful performance by Karen Henson, is no doddering caricature: she likes a tipple, she’s late middle-aged, trusting and pathetic; and entirely believable. The scene where she’s dispatched is upsettingly authentic.
But there are laughs. Susie Hawthorne, as Emmie the maid, is funny: “If you haven’t got feet…you can’t do anything,” she says. So is Susan Earnshaw’s cockney widow, the comically coarse Freda Jeffries.
There’s at least one other respect in which this is real-world: not every item on display in the fussily fifties set dates from that decade. In Thrillerland, especially Durbridge territory, people dutifully up-date furniture fixtures and fittings, even their own clothes at the turn of each decade. They evidently don’t here.
Period background tracks – especially the sinister and disturbing, in this instance witty, ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ – are well chosen.
Monica Bare: Karen Henson.
Emmie: Susie Hawthorne.
Phillip Mortimer: Andrew Ryan.
Edward Bare: Chris Sheridan.
Freda Jeffries: Susan Earnshaw.
Charlotte Young: Jo Castleton.
Director: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Designer: Geoff Gilder.
Lighting: Michael Donoghue.
Sound/Original Music: David Gilbrook.