MURDERED TO DEATH: Gordon, Theatre Royal Nottingham till 14th August

Nottingham.

MURDERED TO DEATH: Peter Gordon.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 14th August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays, 5pm and 8pm Sat. (Matinee 2.00pm Weds).
Review: Alan Geary: 9th August 2010.

It would be a crime to miss it.
Given a strangulated title like Murdered to Death – is there any other way of getting murdered? – the hardened play-goer might reasonably be expecting a send-up. He/she’d be right. Playwright Peter Gordon takes your standard Agatha Christie country house genre by the double-breasted dinner jacket and up it’s well and truly sent.

There are other dimensions. The stock characters have to deliver some outrageous innuendo. And, it being the thirties, they look at the audience as if they’re not sure whether or not what they’ve just said is rude. Miss Maple (played by Karen Henson, always wonderful in dottily tweedy parts) explains to another character, and of course the audience, that chums of her cricket-loving nephew tell her he’s a bent left-hander.

The plot creaks, intentionally of course, but there are no weaknesses in the cast. Alongside most of our established Classic Thriller favourites, we get a nicely observed performance from Julia Binns, as, apparently long-suffering Margaret Craddock. That moment after the break when, draped in a lilac number, she’s agitatedly looking out of the French windows in profile is beautifully done.

Nicholas Briggs, as the deeply incompetent Inspector Pratt, is responsible for some of the very best laughs. His speech is cluttered with malapropisms, he has a silly moustache, and he never comes near to getting a grip on what’s going on. Interestingly, Briggs is a fine farceur in a play which is not actually a farce. On a negative note, his Dixon of Dock Green “Evenin’ all” at the end is an inappropriate intrusion which doesn’t work.

Both Pratt and faithful old “container” Bunting the Butler (John Hester) are locked into literalisms: Bunting because he’s wilful, Pratt because of his limited intelligence. Gordon’s hilarious and very clever script is well served by these two.

From those shamelessly mechanical audience info lines from Mildred (an excellent Susan Earnshaw) at the start to the tastelessly OTT dénouement, this second play in Colin McIntyre’s Classic Thriller Season, is seriously entertaining entertainment.

It would be a crime to miss it.

Mildred: Susan Earnshaw.
Dorothy: Sarah Wynne Kordas.
Bunting: John Hester.
Colonel Charles Craddock: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Margaret Craddock: Julia Binns.
Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington: Jo Castleton.
Pierre Marceau: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Joan Maple: Karen Henson.
Constable Thompkins: Patric Kearns.
Inspector Pratt: Nicholas Briggs.

Director: Colin McIntyre.
Designer: Geoff Gilder.
Lighting Designer: Michael Donoghue.
Sound Designer: Patric Kearns.
Original Music: Toby Robinson.

2010-08-16 11:44:27

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