Building on the phenomenal decade-long success of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company, Bill Kenwright has created a new chapter in the world of murder mystery with the formation of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company; currently touring the UK with an adaptation of one of Ruth Rendall’s most celebrated works – A Judgement in Stone.
Truth be told, I’m more likely to be caught watching ‘Murder, She Wrote’ than reading one of Rendall’s psychological thrillers, but I headed off to the Regent Theatre to flex my detective skills and try to work out ‘whodunnit’ none-the-less.
With a cast list that reads like a who’s who of entertainment; from the 60s pop-star turned seasoned stage performer, Mark Wynter, and Antony Costa of boyband fame, to movie icon Shirley Anne Field, and ex Coronation Street star, Andrew Lancel, the audience is sure to recognise a familiar face.
The play begins as one may expect, in the wake of a murder. Well, four murders to be exact, as Detective Superintendent Vetch (played by Lancel – ironic considering his previous form as ‘Villain of the Year’ at the British Soap Awards), interviews Eunice Parchman, housekeeper at the country home of the Coverdale family. The action then alternates between the past and present as clues are revealed and the mystery of whodunnit is solved.
The pace was slower than I would have expected, and I was disappointed not to find myself on the edge of my seat at any point. Thankfully, Deborah Grant brings some light relief to the proceedings as Joan Smith, the mini-skirted, ex-prostitute who has found God. Grant’s role offers the perfect contrast to the strait-laced Miss Parchman, played by Sophie Ward, who gets my vote for performance of the night with an almost constant stage presence. Top marks to the make-up team, who convincingly transformed Ward into someone many years her senior – a cross between Victoria Wood’s character Bren in Dinnerladies and Olive Oyl.
A Judgement in Stone is on at The Regent, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 22nd July. Tickets are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting.