From the writers of Murder, She Wrote comes Rehearsal for Murder, a play about a play from the Classic Thriller Theatre Company.
Set in a west end theatre in 1989, playwright Alex Dennison (Alex Ferns) gathers together some actors, a producer, and a writer to read his latest work. The same group previously worked on a production Alex wrote one year earlier. On the opening night of that ill-fated play, the leading lady, Monica (Susie Amy), who also happened to be Alex’s fiancé, was found dead from an apparent suicide.
As the group reads the new play, they realise Alex has ulterior motives aside from this simple reading, and that his new script is somehow linked to those events of the previous year…
Ferns as the lead has exquisite presence and command of the stage. He relishes every word he speaks and, like his assistant, who he relates the story of Monica back to, we cling to every word he says. It really is Ferns who drives the drama and intensity of the play, as it takes a little longer to warm up to the rest of the ensemble.
One of the greatest pleasures of Rehearsal for Murder, as is the case with any murder mystery, is the recognition of when hints are dropped and trying to solve the mystery yourself. Indeed the audience is given the chance to consult one another on their thoughts of who the murderer could be at the accurately timed interval.
The second half of the play is by far its stronger half as there is more action in it and the dramatic build-up culminates in a commanding finale.
The acting is somewhat mixed. Susie Amy’s Monica does not gel as well into the play as she should. She delivers a somewhat OTT performance that may have worked better had the remainder of the ensemble adapted a similar acting style. Indeed, give the melodramatic narrative Rehearsal for Murder involves, one does wish the cast would have a little more fun with the script. At the same time, when it comes to the finale, the way they have approached the play does makes sense and does work.
Aside from Ferns, another stand-out performance is Lauren Drummond as the actress Karen Daniels. As she gets increased attention through the progression of the play, she really comes into her own. Anita Harris, as producer Bella Lamb, and Gary Mavers, as the director, Lloyd Andrews, are also a pleasure to watch. Indeed, as an ensemble, the cast works really well together and the pleasure they take in performing as a group makes for infectious enjoyment.
Rehearsal for Murder is not spectacular, and this may be in part because the script itself (adapted for the stage by David Rogers from Richard Levinson and William Link’s script) is not as enduring as Murder, She Wrote. At that, it is an enjoyable, intriguing watch, and it’s one fans of the murder mystery genre ought to check out.
Rehearsal for Murder plays in the Bord Gáis Energgy Theatre Monday 5 – Saturday 10 September