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All of the best murders are kept in the family. Strictly Murder by Brian Clemens and directed by his son Samuel Clemens brings a whole new meaning to that!
For this is not a high-tech murder mystery. There are no highly trained forensic experts to call upon, no database of likely suspects to interrogate. This is a case of good versus evil with an inevitable Clemens twist, to what at first seems a cut and dried plot.
We begin with the English couple living the idyllic life in a rustic cottage in Provance… but wait, who is this strange, dishevelled gamekeeper like character? And why do they seem to have a bond with him. Enter the thirsty old Etonian who doesn’t quite seem to be all he would have us believe.
This is a gentle, slowly developing play but listen carefully, for it is dripping with clues from the beginning. Oh come on, everyone in the audience knew she was pregnant long before she declared herself to be so!
And then there is the murder. But not to fear, no one has seen… or have they? By the end of the first half it would appear that we are rapidly running out of cast members!
No review of a murder mystery should reveal the outcome – suffice to say there are no butlers so he didn’t do it! But as we are in no doubt as to the who, the burning question is the why!
There is something unspoken about Peter Meredith (Gary Turner) who very obviously has a hidden past which he is at pains to keep from his lover, the scarlet woman Suzy (Lara Lemon). She too has a secret to begin with, a much more natural secret. Josef (Andrew Fettes) is, how best to put this, think of Faulty Towers’ Manuel but with a German accent and a significantly poorer wardrobe. Brian Capron and Corrine Wicks complete the onstage cast as the duplicitous… no, that would be telling.
I stood in for one of our regular reviewers who was otherwise engaged on election duty on opening night at The Mercury. The play opens with prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s radio announcement of serious matters in Europe. By the time we left the theatre our car radio was announcing more modern-day concerns on the political front. I like to think that Brian Clemens would have enjoyed that irony.
This Talking Scarlet production is well worth taking time to immerse yourself in. Not a who-done-it but a why-done-it, with a neat twist in the tale.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Strictly Murder runs at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until Saturday 10th June and is touring nationally until October. In our region you can catch it at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, The Palace Theatre in Westcliff-on-Sea and The Key Theatre in Peterborough. Click here for complete list of dates.[/box]