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A grand setting but a case of unmet expectations

The Case of the Frightened Lady, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until June 16.

I was intrigued by the sound of this Edgar Wallace classic murder mystery - but can't say the reality lived up to my expectations.

Yes, the stage at the Belgrade was converted into a place of baronial splendour and, yes, there were maids and manservants and an extremely grand lady of the house, played to perfection by Deborah Grant.

The 1930s fashions were rather splendid too. The only trouble was that by the end of the play I really didn't care much whodunnit.

Not that I guessed, I'll give the late Edgar Wallace that.

And did you know that at the peak of his writing career in the 1920s his publishers claimed that a quarter of all books being read in England were written by him?

He was on his way to Hollywood to write the screen play for King Kong when he died of pneumonia in 1932 - the same year this play was set.

This touring revival is produced by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company and comes to the Belgrade courtesy of Bill Kenwright.

Among the 12-strong cast is a familiar face to television audiences, Philip Lowrie, best known for his years on Coronation Street as Elsie Tanner's son Dennis.

Here, Philip is cast as Kelver, the silent-footed butler who tends to Lady Lebanon's every need even though it isn't champagne she requires, but for a beautiful cousin (Isla Crane) to maintain the family's ancestral pride by marrying her wayward son (Ben Nealon).

How far is she prepared to go to meet her needs? What's the gamekeeper got to do with anything and who is the mysterious Dr Amersham?

My lips are sealed. But don't run away with the time-honoured idea that the butler did it.

Edgar Wallace was better than that.

Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

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