Dead of Night

Peter Whalley
Big Dog Productions at the Gala Theatre, Durham
(2003)

Theatre for people who don't go to the theatre.

That's quite a good description of this type of mystery thriller. First produced as part of a summer season at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, it's the sort of play which could well become popular with amateur groups and possibly tour with a TV "name" or two in the cast.

An antiques dealer shoots and kills a burglar, is tried for manslaughter and acquitted. Shades of Tony Martin, of course, and much is made of "the right to defend yourself". "He was a criminal," says antique dealer Jack. "And that gives you carte blanche to kill him?" his girlfriend Maggie asks. "Yes," he replies.

But, of course, it isn't that simple and the plot twists and turns, not entirely unpredictably, finally reaching a suitably surprising dénoument.

It contains all the characteristics of the genre: stereotypical characters (in the case of the dealer Jack, played by Andrew Fettes, caricature - a young version of Alf Garnett, or perhaps almost any character from The Sweeney); lots of "I didn't mention this before, but..."; the interval curtain just before a major revelation; convoluted relationships, and so on.

Given the limits of the genre and the characterisation, the cast of four (Fettes, Jo Castleton, Ben Roddy and India Fisher) give good performances and the production values are high. The audience enjoyed it and it was - again within its limits - a pleasant evening's theatre.

"Dead of Night" runs at the Gala until 25th October.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan