Audience with Murder
by Roger Leach and Colin Wakefield
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by David Morris
Audience with Murder starts out as an evening of drinks and a living room reading of a new play before it all goes downhill rather quickly for Alan, his wife Sue and their guests Kelly and Dean. Sue is the play's author, and early on, Alan's cruel commentary about the play's content alerts their guests -- and the audience -- to the likelihood that Sue has based her drama on devastating home truths. Clearly, this is not going to end well.
Written by Roger Leach and Colin Wakefield, this complex, two-act thriller staged by Waterbeach Community Players draws on elements of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It might be described as a theatrical spaghetti junction, given the numerous twists, turns and collision courses of make-believe and reality as the action progresses.
A script this manipulative demands shifts in pace, clearly defined characters that can morph into new yet equally sharply defined characters at every turn and a focused attention on continuity. The intertwining narratives give the play's four actors food for thought, significant dramatic challenges and lots of scenery to chew on.
Directed by David Morris, Waterbeach's production featured Morris himself as the older of the male protagonists, first unceasingly loud and vicious, later camp and unsettled, and Wendy Croft as his wife, initially beaten down yet proud, later brittle, diva-esque and ultimately terrified. Completing the four-hander were Jessica Hamill as the younger female whose real motives were always in question and James Windle, who arguably had the widest turf to navigate as the guest Dean, acting out a role in Sue's script, a police inspector, a rising but tormented actor and finally as a new playwright.
In this most difficult abundance of roles, required by the script to be played by one actor, Windle's series of portrayals needed support from a disguise or two to better guide the audience along the twisted plot path.
A challenge to the staging was that the director also had a major role to perform and vice versa. For example, the charismatic and loud Morris made his own presence felt throughout; however the words of more softly-spoken actors positioned upstage were occasionally lost. A director seated offstage would no doubt have this picked up.
A nagging point about the staging of a key episode involved separate conversations between a police inspector and each of the two women, in which we gain a bit of insight into the characters of Sue and Kelly. Sue requests a private conversation with the inspector, and Kelly is asked to go into the adjoining kitchen. The ensuing chat and a following conversation between the inspector and Kelly were anything but private in this staging. I could not understand why the door to the kitchen, where each woman waited in succession, was left wide open and the actors were talking at normal stage volume, with no suggestion of secrecy or stage
whispers. Was this deliberate? (If so, why?) Or remiss? A hearty round of applause goes to the technical direction of Mark Easterfield. Stand-out features included a well-designed, beautifully executed and tastefully decorated set of Alan and Sue's plum and gold living room (I was ready to move in!) and highly effective lighting. The onstage application of a shocking make-up effect late in the show was handled well, evoking gasps from the audience.
This choice of rarely performed, complicated thriller demonstrated WCP's adventuresome and playful spirit, which last Saturday's audience obviously appreciated.
NODA East, Assistant Regional Representative District 4S
Phone: 01223 880023
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Phone: 01223 880023