Author Frederick Knott is best known for “Dial M for Murder” (1952)which was successfully portrayed in the cinema by Alfred Hitchcock, and “Wait Until Dark” (1966) which appeared both on Broadway, and in the cinema, starring Audrey Hepburn. In between, he wrote “Write Me a Murder” in 1961. Although the lesser known of the three, it is by no means the runt of the litter, and was a good choice for the Grange Players.
Written in three acts, this is the tale of brothers Clive and David Rodingham, who inherit the family fortune, including the Estate, upon the death of their father. Wheeler- dealer Charles Sturrock is only too happy to relieve them of their responsibilities by buying the estate. His wife Julie is an aspiring writer whom bohemian David is happy to help. Then fiction becomes fact, as the plot twists and turns.
This is the Directorial debut of sisters Suzy Donnelly and Louise Farmer. Choosing a lesser known work was shrewd, few in the audience will have seen it before, equally shrewd was casting so well .
Joseph Hicklin is animated and impressive as pompous Lord Clive Rodingham, his stage brother David (Aarron Armstrong Craddock) neatly counterpoints him as the boat dwelling author whose prospects have dramatically improved, and whose character changes with it. Elena Serafinas produces a fine supporting role as hard drinking, chain smoking, GP,Dr Woolley. Medical mores have shifted in the past half century.
Charles Sturrock is memorably brought to life as local boy made good by Andy Jones, tough, quick witted, and hustling all the time. But Millie Farrelly , as Sturrock’s wife Julie, stood out for me, moving from timid downtrodden doormat, to scheming scarlet woman, in a fine, convincing, compelling, performance.
Told in nine scenes, with one interval, the single set designed by Suzy Donnelly ( she works hard) and Quinn Paddock is functional and effective, yet stage manager Libby Allport also deserves acknowledgement for all the curtain pulling and prop moving that nine changes involves. Rosemary Manjunath also excelled in producing characterful, evocative and authentic period costuming. My only minor quibble being that the merry widow Julie Sturrock probably would have been able to afford more than one pair of shoes.
Donnelly and Farmer have made an auspicious debut with this murder mystery. The inevitable initial scene setting is enlivened by some first class character acting, the humour in the writing is skilfully exploited, and they have a neat eye for detail. A murdered character is dragged off stage “dead” by stagehands during the blackout rather than experiencing a Lazarus like recovery much to everyone’s amusement. The full house warmly acknowledged the finale which featured a cleverly posed curtain call for what was a stylish, and hugely satisfying production, which runs till Saturday 28th November.
This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.