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Theatre Review – Murder In The Dark

Read Time:3 Minute, 56 Second

I feel that I need to make a public apology to Susie Blake. I fell in love with her when she was the waspish, right wing continuity announcer on Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV. She was delightfully acidic, spoke with a cut glass, RP accent, and was hilariously funny. If you take a look on YouTube for “Susie Blake continuity announcer’ there are plenty of examples. Ms Blake has been in a very wide and varied range of, mainly, television projects but not many that I saw; that is not meant as a disparagement of her choice of projects, more an acknowledgment of my lack of television watching.

So, when I first saw the announcement for the Original Theatre’s stage production of Murder In The Dark and noticed that one of the leads was Susie Blake it caught my eye. I looked at some of the publicity shots and, sure enough, it was the same Susie Blake that I remembered. I immediately booked tickets. And last night I was sitting there in anticipation. The house lights went down, in the dark I could see the curtains drawing back, and then the performance started. The scene was set in an old, poorly equipped farm house; no wifi, no phone signal, random electricity availability. Torches can be seen bobbing around as they cross the yard and come into the building.

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Don’t Call Me Nigel

And this is where I feel that I owe Ms Blake an apology…she burst into the room, fizzing and bubbling and spoke the first line…in a broad Northern accent! I had not appreciated what a skilled and capable actor she is. As well as having no problem with accents she was also captivating in her role as Mrs Bateman. The story starts with Mrs Bateman bringing Danny Sierra (Tom Chambers) and his current wife, Sarah (Laura White) into the dilapidated building following a car crash. No one was injured in the accident but they were unable to continue their journey due to it being New Year’s Eve and they were in the middle of a storm. Also, the absence of signal and web connection means they can’t order a taxi or an Uber.

They have just been to the funeral of Danny’s mother. Also in the car was Danny’s brother, Will (Owen Oakeshott), Danny’s estranged wife, Rebecca (Rebecca Charles), and son Jake (Jonny Green). Danny was driving and he claimed to be hungover but, most definitely, not drunk. He had been driving quickly in an attempt to catch a train back to London where Jake was meant to be appearing on stage, performing at a career making gig. This causes more bad feeling due to Danny having been away from his family thanks to being in a formerly successful pop group and Jake feeling that Danny is trying to sabotage his career as his own is behind him. The absence of a father/son relationship is emphasised by Jake only ever calling Danny by his real name…Nigel.

Coming…Ready Or Not

Given that Murder In The Dark is a horror/thriller there is no surprise in that there are demons haunting the cast. What may be more surprising is that the demons are Danny’s internal ones. He struggles with drink, pain killers, losing his fame, losing his family. I hope that Tom Chambers is a really good actor because if he wasn’t then he has problems! He was totally convincing as a man struggling with all manner of inner turmoils.  What was more surprising than the portrayal of a former celebrity struggling with his problematic life was the amount of humour. Most of the laughs came courtesy of Susie Blake who demonstrated that she hasn’t lost any of her comic timing. Some jokes were telegraphed but, somehow, she still made them funny!

But as well as the laughs there were a lot of genuinely scary moments. Obviously I can’t say too much about how events unfold because, as it said inside the programme, ”Spread the word (but not the spoilers)”. I’ll just finish off by saying that both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Murder In The Dark. It was very well acted; each cast member was totally believable and engaging. The staging was simple but effective; things were what they seemed to be until they, spookily, weren’t. The big jump scenes were managed using lighting, sound, and some props. It seems so simple written down like that but, put together in the way that director Philip Franks did it, it made for an exceptionally entertaining night at the theatre.

Grade: A+

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