Murder Most Foul

I’m actually a little uncomfortable saying this but… don’t you love a good murder?  Now before plod crash through the door to fit me up for every unsolved homicide since the Red Barn murders, I probably should clarify that statement.  What I mean is that I love a good murder story.  Most of us do it seems, but exactly what makes a good murder story is a matter of opinion.

In terms of the visual portrayal of murder it appears to come down to whether you like shock or storyline.  The West Coast American noir, of which Raymond Chandler was the master, remains popular and has recently given rise to the so-called tartan-noir of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid (they owe it all to Taggart I reckon).  These stories are always grim, down-trodden and tend to inhabit the undefined border between normality and perversity with great attraction.  For some people however murder means blood – buckets of blood – and more knife action than a 2-4-1 night at the local hibachi-house.

I’ll happily admit that Freddie Kruger and his ilk have never really cut it as far as I’m concerned.  Sure, those stories have some enjoyable, jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but does anything in the plot ever really surprise you?  What they lack is any mystery, any suspense, and therefore any real sense of satisfaction.  Whodunnit?  Oh, let’s take a punt and say it’s that weird-looking dude in the hat and the stripy jumper shall we?

Now murder-mysteries may seem awfully old-fashioned, and indeed the genre has been around for longer than Foz’s jokes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s stale or lifeless.  Take, for example, the television success of Broadchurch or Sherlock Holmes.  They’re both essentially murder-mysteries dressed up for modern tastes – and bloody good they are too (well maybe not series 2 of Broadchurch but we’ll skip around that) – and prove that we have a seemingly limitless appetite for murder when it’s served to our taste.

One such morsel is appearing at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds early next month when Rehearsal For Murder plays from the 8th until the 13th of August.  The murder in this case is that of a leading lady who is found dead, in an apparent suicide, following the first night of her Broadway debut, leaving her playwright husband distraught.  One year later to the night, he gathers the cast and crew from that fateful night in the same theatre for a reading of the new play which he has been working on.   The play however, is strikingly similar to the events which occurred on the night of his wife’s death and when this becomes apparent the playwright reveals that he believes his wife was murdered and that this play will uncover the truth…

It’s classic, gather all the suspects in one room along with a trawler’s worth of red herrings and let the fun begin kind of stuff, but before you get the idea that this is some old story that’s been racked up I should point out that it was written by the writing team behind Columbo and Murder She Wrote and only pre-dates Nightmare on Elm Street by two years.

The production come with good pedigree, being a Bill Kenwright show, and features a number of well-known actors in the cast.  Fresh from playing the evil Gordon Livesy in Emmerdale actor Gary Mavers will be joined onstage by Alex Ferns who played the villainous Trevor Morgan in EastEnders.  Susie Amy, who many will remember from Footballer’s Wives in which she played Chardonnay, also appears as does Anita Harris whose CV is too long to list here.

The outdoor theatre offerings not withstanding, August can often provide thin pickings theatrically so it’s unusual, and frankly rather wonderful, to have a show which could stand its ground when there’s plenty of alternatives around, on the summertime menu.  Tickets run from £10 to £30 and are available from the Theatre Royal box office on 01284 769 505 or via www.theatreroyal.org.