Monday, 20 March 2017

REViEW: A Judgement in Stone at the Buxton Opera House

On the face of it this tour which runs until July has strong credentials. A Ruth Rendell story (said to be one of her best and to start by announcing the murderer) , a Bill Kenwright production , Roy Marsden directing and an experienced cast including Sophie Ward ,Shirley Anne Field , Anthony Costa and Deborah Grant . Yet somewhere in the adaption from the page to the stage it has lost its way and although they don’t announce the murderer at the start, there is only ever one who done it. 

The whole story is shoe horned into the Coverdale’s family lounge with exits in each corner of the room to the front door and stairs, the kitchen and back door, the room offstage where the murder takes place and the fourth used mainly for the entrance of the police. Having restricted the action, the story then unfolds through a long series of flashback sequences interspersed with police interviews with the only suspects to the mass murder of all four Coverdales. There are recognisable elements that set this in 1978, a cassette player, kiln craft pottery, a grey telephone, tie dye shirt and a quality street tin but this is enough to create a credible or believable story.

As a result the cast seem uncomfortable with the show and never deliver close to their potential, often seen to be wooden and workmanlike in the delivery lines. Andrew Lancel and Ben Nealon play the detective superintendent and sergeant but in the episodic format have little chance to develop the characters and simply move the plot gently and slowly forward.

The ill fated Coverdales are played by Mark Wynter who is very good as George, Rosie Thomson as his second wife, Jennifer Sims and Joshua Price as his children. These are the most interesting characters although each is irritating in their own way, though it is not enough to justify murder!

The four suspects are Eunice played in a stilted awkward fashion, against type,
by Sophie Ward , Meadows, the odd Job man with a history played, by Anthony Costa , Joan Smith , the odd postmistress played by Deborah Grant and Eva Baalham, played by an underused Sally Ann Field. 

In the book the back stories of each character can be developed and the motives perhaps become more compelling but this production by the Classic Thriller Company offers only sketchy facts and means when that the revelation of who did it arrives it is neither thrilling nor surprising. 

Review by Nick Wayne

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