Plenty of twists combined with an increasingly tense plot, make this a gripping and thrilling watch.
Written by Richard Levinson and William Link, whose previous work includes the television shows Columbo and Murder She Wrote , Rehearsal for Murder sees Alex Dennison recreating the evening on which his fiancee was thought to have committed suicide – but Dennison isn’t convinced. By gathering all those who were there that evening he hopes to discover who murdered her…
Adapted for the stage by David Rogers, this is an intense and cleverly laid out production which uses everything from Douglad Kuhrt’s lighting to Julie Godfrey’s designs to create an atmospheric and focused production that is only really let down by the lack of a meaningful motive for the murder.
While the duration of the action takes place in a West End Theatre, the audience still gets a sense of the different locations through the lighting which is used to determine whether it is in the past or present.
But the trouble is that it does take a while for the story to get going particularly in the first act, which occasionally lacks focus and energy due to the the time it takes to bring new characters onto the scene, which in turn means that there feels a lack of character development and difficult to see if any of the characters have a motive for the crime for which they are being accused.
Yet, with a few very clever twists (which actually does make the audience gasp) the production manages to come together, meaning that the cast are able to lift the show with their performances and the chemistry between them creating some fiery moments – including a moment involving a gun and a lot of confusion.
What also makes this a clever and sharp show is that it remains open for interpretation. By interval there is a very real chance that it could go in any direction and it certainly gets the audience thinking.
While in terms of character development, it seems a bit flimsy this isn’t a reflection on any of the cast who aren’t really given enough to do for the audience to really develop an understanding of them or their motives. Much of the show depends on the performance of Alex Ferns as the playwright Alex Dennison whose grief and determination shines through at every opportunity is strongly performed and yet never overplayed. The rest of the cast are great foils for everything that happens when they are involved with the action but are mainly left to sit on the sidelines.
As pieces of the story unfold, it is clear that the intention is to fool the audience into thinking it is straight forward murder mystery, Richard Levinson and William Link manage to turn this story on its head – but don’t give it the powerful ending that it really deserves and you can feel slightly underwhelmed.
That being said, Roy Marsden’s production is still worth watching as it sets up the story beautifully and along with Levinson and Link’s plot will thrill and engage from beginning to end.