MURDERER: Anthony Shaffer.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Full information: TABS Productions
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 24th August.
Review: Alan Geary: 19th August 2013.
Clever – and highly enjoyable.
There’s a clever clue in the title. Perhaps the protagonist of Murderer is a murderer. With Anthony Shaffer, the dramatist who came up with Sleuth, you can’t be sure; perhaps he just aspires to be one. It’s a clever play.
It happens in Dorset, in the studio of artist Norman Bartholomew (frenetically played by John Goodrum, looking here a little like Roman Polanski). As the action opens he’s playing a board game with fetching girlfriend Millie Sykes (Sarah Wynne Kordas, excellent as ever in a non-eccentric, non-nutty role). No one says anything at all for something like ten minutes – it seems initially as if the piece might be cashing in on the current vogue for all things silent, but Shaffer actually wrote this in 1977. Only two other characters come on: wife Elizabeth (Susan Earnshaw), an obstetrics surgeon, domineering and disagreeable; and Sergeant Stenning (Adrian Lloyd-James), your stock stage uniformed plod complete with West Country burr. He drinks off duty and is slurpy and belchy with it.
Shaffer is lampooning the conventional thriller, of course. Simultaneously this is meta-theatre: he’s poking fun at the very medium of theatre itself; at one point he has Norman consciously breaching the fourth wall to relate directly with the stalls. In all this Shaffer mostly demonstrates impeccable taste. But occasionally he gets it wrong: there are one or two gags he makes his characters do or say which step outside the world he’s set up for himself. These don’t enhance proceedings; they jar. He should have let the dark humour and the farcical elements speak for themselves.
The well-observed early seventies set, designed by Wynne Kordas, is brilliantly dressed with all sorts of realistic clutter. What’s more, there’s facility for seeing action in silhouette, which helps when it comes to your odd dismemberment scene.
Murderer is definitely not a whodunit; nor is it a will-he-get-away-with-it thriller. Perhaps it’s more of a will-he-do-what. At any rate, it’s a bold departure from your relatively routine thriller; and it’s a highly enjoyable caper with which to conclude the Theatre Royal’s Classic Thriller Season.
Norman Bartholomew: John Goodrum.
Sergeant Stenning: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Millie Sykes: Sarah Wynne-Kordas.
Elizabeth Bartholomew: Susan Earnshaw.
Director: Karen Henson Adrian Lloyd-James.
Designer: Sarah Wynne-Kordas.
Lighting Design: Michael Donoghue.
Sound Design: David Gilbrook.