by Anthony Shaffer.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate Village NW6 4BD To 20 April 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 March.
Verdict II: Blood and psychology both given their due in strong revival.
In a sense Anthony Shaffer put the criminal cart before the horse, having created his Sleuth in 1970, five years before Murderer came along. As Tim Frost’s spirited revival of the later play makes clear, Shaffer not only subverts the expectations of the traditional murder story, he exposes the mix of gloating superiority and fury built round feelings of humiliation which underlie the crime of passion.
Shaffer employs the traditional English village, with its slow bobby plodding unawares in the right direction. And in Norman Bartholomew, aggrieved husband and philanderer, he shows someone whose enthusiasm for famous murder cases is a shield from real relationships.
Humour offsets horror, as psychological truths mix with visceral shocks. Frost’s cast catch both elements, from the Rififi-rivalling opening – 24 minutes of action without speech (the wordless heist in Jules Dassin’s 1955 film runs about half-an-hour) – where the sights and sounds of a body’s dismemberment, interspersed with a cup of tea challenge audience not to laugh, to the tension of anticipated violence and the humiliation visited on Norman by the women he treats so callously.
His wife, a successful gynaecologist, has a brisk confidence that reveals him as a child showing-off superior knowledge that interests only him, to avoid facing reality.
And it’s this putting-up fake scenarios as a defence against being known by anybody, that does for him when reality hits home. Shades of the schoolboy keen to impress, asserting his view of the world on others, are clear in the mixed innocence and cunning Bradley Clarkson shows in Norman’s childlike assurance he can solve any development in a situation by resorting to one of the real-life murder scenarios stashed in his brain.
Abby Forknall’s Millie moves from fond delicacy to hard criticism as she realises how he’s been treating her. As his wife, Elizabeth, Zoë Teverson displays hard-edged impatience with her husband’s ways, while Andrew Ashford gives his policeman just enough humour to avoid the stereotypical.
On Philip Lindley’s colourful domestic set, and capturing Shaffer’s visceral thrills and humour, alongside the play’s insight into its central character’s personality, this is a killer revival.
Norman Bartholomew: Bradley Clarkson.
Millie Sykes: Abby Forknall.
Sergeant Stenning: Andrew Ashford.
Elizabeth Bartholomew: Zoë Teverson.
Director: Tim Frost.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Les Broughton.
Sound: Kirsty Gillmore.
Costume: Alison Jacobson.
Fight director: Josh Jefferies.