Last night at the Regent Theatre everyone embraced their best inner detective as The Classic Thriller Theatre Company present Rehearsal for Murder, which David Rogers had adapted for stage. The play taken from the film of the same name featured a star studded cast and was greeted to a fairly large audience in Stoke opening night.
The play is set in a 1989 theatre in London, this was shown very clearly through the set which was simplistic yet complex at the same time. Chairs and different lighting were used to show scene changes. This was creative and was enough for most audience members to follow, however, at points I was slightly lost as to what was happening, but quickly picked it back up. I feel slightly more could have been done with these scene changes, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for the whole show. The costume was period appropriate and was just everyday wear nothing overly striking or character enhancing but again was enough. The play was a play within a play. The story follows a playwright who falls in love with a movie star who is taking part in one of his plays and is killed on opening night. It’s a whodunit play with a huge twist at the end of the show.
The lead role of Alex Dennison was played by Robert Daws, who stole the show in my eyes he was gripping from the word go, his entrance was him spot lit and was captivating. His performance was true, humble and honest with the audience it was truly beautiful to watch his voice carried throughout the whole auditorium which was wonderful as the cast didn’t use mics. This, as an audience member, was a hindrance as some points of dialogue were lost. The regent is an exceptionally big venue due to being a cinema in the past so it is vocally intensely difficult to fill and like some cast members were very hard to hear, mostly when towards the back of the stage. Robert was not one whose voice was lost, however his stage presence was incredible and he was captivating from an audience perspective. He was joined by Amy Robbins who portrayed Monica Wells, his onstage girlfriend and the murdered character in the play. She played the character with just the right amount of diva throughout as she is supposed to be, however she did have a venerable side when with daws character which showed her incredible acting range and was a marvel to watch on stage. The two bounced off each other perfectly and gave the show some much needed oomph at some points as the shows rhythms were very off at some points.
The show did have some light points and was highly humorous at these points which was a change from the heavy nature of the show. The writing of the play was very clever and the cast held the audience in the palm of their hands at points another cast member that was a breath of fresh air in his scenes was Robert Duncan his character David was a stereotypical leading man character, highly headstrong which came across perfectly throughout his performance and in his scene within the play he gave a truly ruthless performance of being seen to hit on Monicas character before her death.
The rest of the cast also were gripping in there scenes but however a large amount of their performances were lost through the lack of mics. I was sat in row L in the stalls and a large amount of the lines were lost at this point. It was worse at points with heightening music or sound effects because at this points the sound effects completely drowned their voices. The character of Bella played by Susan Penhaligon was very well acted she embodied the typical producer of a theatre she was portraying came across wonderfully. The director of the play within a play portrayed by Steven Pinder, who within his scene was supposed to have missed construed advances, and showed this well by being whole heartedly besotted by the film star. The young understudy to the movie star character within the play is played by Lucy Dixon. Dixon had to play the innocent type and then someone trying to embody the leading lady persona she did both and did them both well. Her supposed partner in the play Leo was played by Ben Nealon was adorable on stage. The two police characters are well portrayed one of them being a key feature to the twist.
The play itself was clever and very well acted, it was just a shame about the volume of the lines, as full emersion into the gripping drama was lost as many of the lines were lost. The acting was strong though, I really do think the only thing that let it down was the lack of volume. As I really did enjoy the play and the two leads were show stealing. The star studded cast lived up to their star name as there characterisation and body language was perfect. Overall this was an enjoyable performance and very good for people who enjoy murder mysteries as the twist is incredible and not expected.
Rehearsal For Murder continues at the Regent Theatre, Stoke until Saturday 20th February and tickets can be found at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rehearsal-for-murder/
Reviewer: Leanne Ashworth
Reviewed: 15th February 2016