Full house laps up cracking whodunnit entertainment
This is a second production to star Shane Richie, but his first as the lead character, and he fits comfortably into the skin of the inspector, managing to invest the right amount of humour, bewilderment and nous that will keep fans of the books happy. It is uncertain whether the play works as effectively to those less familiar with the series.
With good performances from all, including debutante Laura Whitmore as pathologist Cleo, Grace’s lover, the actors work cleverly around a set that combines a variety of locations in one space.
Bella Malloy, played by Gemma Stroyan with her ever-present box of Maltesers, and Michael Quartey’s Glenn Branson, will satisfy diehard readers, and Stephen Billington, as Brian Bishop, portrays an impressive range of emotions and passions in his character. He ends the first half in the manner of Grand Guignol with a cliffhanger that makes the interval an unwelcome interruption.
The second half, in contrast, contained a lot of plot and exposition to resolve the setup of the first, but the audience were kept guessing till the final act in true whodunnit style. The atmosphere is helped by realistic police procedure and some authentic sounding banter between characters.
The attention of the audience, more used to television policiers and their high production values, was held instead by Peter James’ twisting plot.
Playing to a full house on opening night, some minor creakiness in the final stages did not deflect from a cracking evening of theatrical entertainment. Three curtain calls and resounding applause presage a good week’s run in Coventry.
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Jane Barker: A cracking performance at the Belgrade. Kept me on the edge of my seat till the very end. And judging by response from the packed house, everyone else felt the same.