Murder With Love
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 10 August
Doorbells and telephones sufficient to drive a murderer to murder. Terrific fun.
In Thrillerland all roads lead to Francis Durbridge, which is where Nottingham’s Classic Thriller Season takes us this week with Murder with Love. You can tell you’re in Durbridge country. All the trademarks are in place: the toing and froing to and from exotic places, the cushy occupations which sound more like one-person work-avoidance schemes than proper jobs, the swish West End locations (in fact, two for the price of one) the heavily used drinks stand (again, two of them). Then there’s that trusty settee centre-stage.
The only people not in some media job are the working-class maid, Mrs Bedford (Susan Earnshaw), Cleaver (John Goodrum), who sounds like an axe murderer but is actually the man from the Yard (also working-class), and a cheerfully opportunist cocky geezer called Rudd (Chris Sheridan), who seems to be competing for Blackmailer of the Year (working-class category).
It being Durbridge, and a tight whodunit, you need to concentrate, especially for the first ten minutes, when characters and situation are introduced. This one dumps a lot of convoluted back story on the audience at the start.
But even if you lose some strands of the plot for good there are richly entertaining performances from everyone, for instance, Jeremy Lloyd Thomas, as serial womaniser Larry Campbell, a walking motive for murder, Anna Mitcham, as Clare Norman, his beautiful, and beautifully dressed, partner (in more ways than one?). Top comedy comes from Goodrum’s strangely long-haired Inspector Cleaver, with his giant notebook and flappy mac – at one point it actually gets wet in the rain along with his hair.
Adding to the fun are the costume design from Geoff Gilder – that fetching red number worn by Anna Mitcham, the black outfit Sarah Wynne Kordas gets to wear as Jo Mitchell are obvious stand-outs – and a super set from Wynne Kordas, also the set designer.
Along with the continual ringing of doorbells and telephones, sufficient to drive a murderer to murder, we get an emphatically non-Durbridgean woman-on-woman fight, with no scratching, no love-rivalry motive; just honest to goodness, well-choreographed violence.
Larry Campbell: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas
Jo Mitchell: Sarah Wynne Kordas
Mrs Bedford: Susan Earnshaw
Ernest Foster: David Martin
David Ryder: Andrew Ryan
George Rudd: Chris Sheridan
Roy Campbell: David Gilbrook
Clare Norman: Anna Mitcham
Cleaver: John Goodrum
Director: Karen Henson
Set Design: Sarah Wynne Kordas
Sound Design: David Gilbrook
Lighting Design: Michael Donoghue
Costume Design: Geoff Gilder