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Death Knell

Henry Roth (David Wickham) wrote the successful thriller Blood Lust many years ago. It is performed in many theatres, translated into 12 languages and adapted for television, where it runs endlessly on repeat. It has left him comfortably well off in his remote Highland retreat, where he lives with his wife of 5 years, Evelyn (Denise King). Nothing he has written since has come anywhere near its success. Could his new play, Death Knell, featuring in the lead role an unknown young actor named Jack Willoughby (Steve Watton), equal or surpass the success of his original block-buster? He hopes so – but his wife, Evelyn, a recovering alcoholic, is not so sure.

Such is the premise at the start of this four-hander at the Kinson Community Centre this week. The darkly comical and convoluted story, published in March 2017, which follows this seemingly innocuous opening, is the creation of the ingenious mind of the real-life playwright, James Cawood.

I have the usual problem of enthusing about a production of a thriller without betraying its intricate twists and character revelations. The KCA Players are on-form, as usual, with a complex plot and reams of dialogue. My top marks go to David Wickham in the lead as Henry, but Denise King and Steve Watton are also good. Mick Wright plays the part of DCI Lazan in a manner reminiscent of David Jason: lines such as “I am always suspicious when people lie to me” is surely straight out of A Touch of Frost. Delivery, diction and projection are all flawless and I neither see nor hear any sign of a prompt. Annie Robertson, who also directs, is credited with set design: I like the stone walls below the dado rail, which could be typical of a Scottish former hunting lodge; the log-fire effect on the right is effective – and provides a useful explanation for some visibility when Evelyn enters in the dark. Sound effects of the off-stage vehicle movements and the highland weather are well managed.

The village parochiality of the Kinson Community Centre can lead the unsuspecting theatre-goer to expect a lower standard of production and performance than that provided by the KCA Players. This is my third visit and I hope it won’t be my last – they have all been good. This is a very well put-together production by an experienced cast and director, which kept us in suspense until the final curtain. At only £8.50 it is excellent value and it deserves a bigger audience than were present last night.

The show runs every night this week at 7.30pm (ends 29 June 2019).