Tuesday, April 23

Murder in the Dark – The Lowry

Thrillers on stage are notoriously difficult to pull off effectively and I am afraid this one didn’t quite hit the mark. Unfortunately, I was not on the edge of my seat and the supposed thrills, twists and turns at the end flailed rather than flabbergasted.

Which is a shame because the groundwork was solidly laid for a classic murder mystery thriller. A group of characters are left in an isolated farm, and we become increasingly concerned there maybe something nasty in the woodshed.

Danny (Tom Chambers) and Sarah (Laura White) are welcomed into the farmhouse by the eccentric owner Mrs Bateman (Susie Blake). It is New Year’s Eve, he has just buried his mother, they are miles from anywhere and Danny is desperate for a drink. He has crashed his car into a wall, and they will have to stay the night in this spooky spot.

Also with them are his estranged brother William (Owen Oakeshott), Danny’s ex-wife Rebecca (Rebecca Charles) and his aggrieved son Jake (Jonny Green). Family enmities are played out whilst a dodgy fuse box keeps playing up and the lights keep going out. It doesn’t help that Danny is afraid of the dark.

Writer Torben Betts was given the title to work from and in the programme, he says he came up with the basic idea in a weekend and only took a few weeks to write the first draft. This possibly explains why the whole thing seems to be a bit rushed. The conflicts are put in place, a mystery is established but when the twists come not enough tension had been built up for them to work properly for there to be genuine thrills. There is a neat little moral within the play which is hammered home at the end.

The stand out performance is by Susie Blake She is clearly having great fun playing the eccentric farm owner. Her comic timing is exemplary, and she does not miss a beat. When she is on stage, she adds energy into a plot that is really quite run of the mill.

Tom Chambers does his best with a rather two-dimensional character. He has charisma and performs the part well. When the play hits the third act he seems to be as confused as many in the audience seemed to be with what is going on.

The rest of the cast were solid, and they did their best with meagre fare. Whilst it is just a murder mystery thriller perhaps it is unfair to expect there to be great emotional journeys for the characters. However, we had a cast of stock characters and it all seemed rather false. Basically, there was a lack of truth to the drama which maybe comes from the fact a writer was asked to write something based on a title. A bit like Alan Partridge’s Monkey Tennis, a great title but where is the substance.

I was impressed with the set design and music. This was cleverly done, especially when they move outside. Lighting and sound were effectively realised. It was just a shame that despite the special effects the drama was not special.

It continues at the Lowry until the 27th January – https://thelowry.com/whats-on/murder-in-the-dark/

It is also touring the country – https://originaltheatre.com/productions/murder-in-the-dark

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 23rd January 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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