Murder in Play

When the lights fall dark at the end of a rehearsal (or during!) how different are the actors in real life? What are their relationships? How do actors interact with each other and the director? What would push you into murdering the leading actress? These were all the questions that Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society are asking in their latest offering, Murder in Play, a murder mystery comedy by Simon Brett.

Without wanting to give too much away, the play focuses on the murder of the leading actress, Renee Savage (Hilary Causey) in Boris Smolensky (Richard Barnett), a budding Director’s, latest production. The cast are struggling to get the production ready in time and the murder throws both the production and the relationships between everyone into disarray. However, through an intricate storyline, some members of the cast start to work out what happened and then the perpetrator of the murder is finally found.

There is no doubt that the play is good, well written and funny, but for me the performance and interpretation by Lyndhurst didn’t work. There were some first-night nerves, stumbling and uncertainty about the plot which led to a lot of confusion. In order for this play to work, there really has got to be a clear line between when the actors are themselves and when they are acting in the mock play. This did not happen, which led me to be very confused about when we were in the ‘rehearsal’ and when we were not.

There was some very nice acting from Donna West playing Sophie Lawton and she really did drive the pace well in the second half. There was also a fabulous performance from Neville Green as Harrison Bracewell, the faded actor trying to remember his lines and moves.

We were sitting about halfway back in the theatre and at times I really struggled to hear what was going on, not helped by the constant talking in the foyer during the first half and the microphones picking up only on people’s feet walking along the set. Also, some of the accents from the cast were very strong and again, this hampered my hearing.

I came away from my first visit to Lyndhurst, thinking how important the communication of a story is in theatre and how it can be very easy to lose an audience which is not able to hear. The performance did not work for me but the 100-strong audience clearly did appreciate the efforts and there was much applause at the end.

Murder in Play runs in the Vernon Theatre until 28 October – if you do go, get a seat near the front!