Tag Archives: Ben Nealon

REVIEW: Rehearsal for Murder – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

From the pen of Richard Levinson and William Link, best-known for their work on Columbo and Murder She Wrote, Rehearsal for Murder, the first production from the recently formed Classic Thriller Theatre Company, originally saw life as a 1982, Edgar Award-winning, made for TV mystery movie.

When his fiancée, movie actress Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her West End debut, playwright Alex Dennison is left devastated. On the first anniversary of her death, he gathers the original cast and crew in the same theatre, ostensibly for a reading of his new play, however, it soon appears that each scene has a particular significance for the people involved.

There’s always a place for a good old-fashioned theatrical murder mystery (as evidenced by the packed auditorium) and something hugely satisfying for an audience in trying to work out whodunnit, and while a hoary old theatrical staple, Levinson and Link’s play is raised above its contemporaries by a clever structure. Told as a series of flashbacks, this thriller flits between the past and presence with an admirable elegance.

There’s a commendable clarity to the storytelling and credit must go to director Roy Marsden, himself no stranger to murder mysteries, serving for 14 years as Detective Inspector Dalgleish in the ITV adaptations of PD James’ renowned crime novels, for keeping it taut throughout.

The cast are universally solid, Alex Ferns convinces as the distraught playwright Dennison, Susie Amy’s turn as the late Monica is nicely handled, and entertainment veteran Anita Harris, looking decidedly glamorous for her 74 years, turns in a well-judged performance as producer Bella Lamb. While the acting veers towards the heightened side of reality, the subject matter allows any quibbles to be easily forgiven.

There are many moments of levity to balance out the chills, and while a slow burn, it’s absorbing enough, sophisticated enough and well-acted enough to keep the interest levels high throughout. A hugely entertaining mystery and a nice change from musical theatre overload.

Runs until Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tickets available from:  http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rehearsal-for-murder/theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: And Then There Were None – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

A cast of TV favourites celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie and the 10th anniversary of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company with a production of the Queen of Crime’s much-loved masterpiece, And Then There Were None at the Theatre Royal this week.

Ten strangers are lured to a remote island off the coast of Devon. On arrival their mysterious host is missing. Stranded by a raging storm and taunted by references to a sinister nursery rhyme the guests begin to disappear one by one…

Good old-fashioned storytelling always wins out and so it proves here. Based on the best-selling mystery novel of all time, And Then There Were None has overtaken The Mousetrap in popularity to become of the nation’s favourite plays and Bill Kenwright’s production doesn’t disappoint. The stellar cast, gorgeous Art Deco set and masterful plotting combine to produce a gripping and atmospheric work that will keep you pinned to the edge of your seat until the very end.

Director Joe Harmston, has fine form with the works of Christie, having directed all of the previous adaptations from the company, and his deft touch shows here. Limited to a fixed set, he manages to keep the interest levels high throughout, the only gripe is the somewhat static first act (which necessarily sets the scene), however, the labyrinthine plot is more than enough to keep us transfixed.

There are solid performances throughout from the raft of familiar TV faces, giving life to this seemingly disparate group of house-party guests. Veterans Paul Nicholas as Judge Wargrave and Eric Carte as retired General Mackenzie, particularly impress as do the ever-reliable Ben Nealon as the charming but dangerous cad, Philip Lombard and Mark Curry as butler Rogers. The only weak link is Kezia Burrows as secretary Vera Claythorne, in trying to capture the essence of a flighty young thing from the thirties, she careers way too far into caricature.

This is a class act from start to finish and proves that you really can’t beat a good old-fashioned murder mystery.

And Then There Were None runs at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 24th October 2015 – miss it at your peril.

Tickets: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/and-then-there-were-none/

REVIEW: Black Coffee – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It is a brave man indeed who takes on a role as synonymous with another actor as that of Hercule Poirot, but that is exactly what Jason Durr gamely does in Agatha Christie’s first play Black Coffee at the Theatre Royal this week, Christie’s only play to feature the much-loved, mustachio’d Belgian brain box.

 

Moments after a dinner party, the less than popular but spectacularly rich inventor Sir Claude Amory is dead and his plans for a new weapon of mass destruction gone.

On an elegantly Art Deco set by Simon Scullion, the plot is very much reflective of a first play but shows hints of the greatness to come and for Christie fans there are many flashes of storyline that appear fully formed in later works by the author.

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The plot is always key for Christie often to the detriment of the characters who can read as caricature rather than fully rounded individuals: there are several, dodgy accented, ‘Johnny Foreigner‘ types that Christie exploits to poke fun at the xenophobic times in which the play was written and upon whom suspicion of course falls for being “not like us”, but all is forgiven in the entertaining plot which is a blend of light and dark and red herrings, heavy hints, intrigue and suspicion abound throughout.

Durr is a more youthful Poirot, though all of Poirot’s idiosyncrasies are intact: the walk, the fastidiousness and of course the famous moustache, the only gripe would be that a little of the dialogue was lost at times in the accent, though in fairness the cast were not miked and the space is a large one to fill. As he carefully unravels the spider’s web of a plot he is ably supported by Robin McCallum as the “deliciously old-fashioned” and “positively pre-war” Hastings and TV regular Deborah Grant delivers an entertaining turn as the dotty Caroline, sister of the murdered Amory.

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This is an entertaining piece of fluff, perfect for an autumn evening, played out upon a delightful set with a cast of talented actors – Christie fans will not be disappointed.

Runs until Saturday 8th Nov at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Tickets: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-black-coffee/theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Go Back For Murder – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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Carla Le Marchant has learnt a disturbing family secret: her mother, Caroline Crale, died in prison after being convicted for killing her father. Leaving an intriguing legacy in the form of a letter, Caroline professes her innocence and, believing this to be true; Carla becomes determined to clear her mother’s name. Enlisting the help of Justin Fogg; the son of her mother’s defence lawyer, Carla searches out all the players from her tragic history and brings them back to the scene of the crime to uncover the truth.

Go Back For Murder is based upon Agatha Christie’s novel of 1943, Five Little Pigs,  the ‘five little pigs’ remain here but its hero Poirot is replaced by central character Carla (Sophie Ward) assuming the role of “detective”, and the action placed in 1968 and in flashback to the fateful day in 1948 when the murder takes place.

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Carla returns from her life in Canada and as an empowered woman of the 60’s and endeavours to contact those present on the day of her father’s death, find the real murderer and exonerate her beloved mother. The first act visits each suspect in turn, where we hear their take on the events of that fateful day, and in true Christie fashion there are few clues, several red herrings and some misheard dialogue to baffle the amateur sleuths in the audience.

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The cast almost entirely comprising familiar faces, skilfully weaves the complex tale for our entertainment. Ward carries the lions-share of the work in this piece and she does it with a graceful warmth and charm throughout, skilfully switching between daughter in 1968 and mother in 1948. She is ably supported by Liza Goddard, who raises the energy levels of the piece and some laughs with her keenly observed nanny Miss Williams, Antony Edridge who delivers a sensitively nuanced and convincing portrayal as true English gent  Meredith Blake and Ben Nealon as her side-kick Justin Fogg. Familiar TV faces, Gary Mavers and Robert Duncan deliver well-judged performances as victim Amyas Crale and his best friend Philip respectively, however the same can’t be said for Lysette Anthony (Elsa) and Sammy Andrews (Angela Warren) who lean too much towards caricature in their portrayals.

The piece builds momentum throughout and delivers a tidy denouement. This is storytelling at its best, classy, engaging and above all entertaining from start to finish.