Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Late Edwina Black

William Dinner and William Morum
An Ian Dickens Production
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and touring
(2008)

Production photo

This is a Whodunit with a cast of only four, so the guessing game of who is to blame is limited. The housekeeper was totally devoted to her late mistress, and surely it can’t be the police inspector, so that leaves only two – but which one? It is a credit to the writers that we are kept guessing until the last moment, and the ending is still a surprise.

Edwina Black would appear to have been a particularly unpleasant lady who taunted her schoolmaster husband, constantly reminding him that he was living well on her money, and her paid companion fared no better, being belittled at every opportunity. Certainly they seem unperturbed by her death. Husband Gregory (Stephen Beckett) comes in singing from his walk; the only concession to mourning being an obligatory black armband over the sleeve of his brown checked suit. In Victorian England the conventions must be seen to be observed! Companion Elizabeth is now out of a job but she too is unconcerned. Georgina Sutton plays her character as cold, hard, unfeeling and brittle, and it comes as a surprise when these two indulge in a sudden passionate embrace. It appears they have been lovers for a long time and now they can use Edwina’s money to enjoy life and to travel. In fact Elizabeth already has some travel documents to hand and as soon as the funeral is over .. Cue the arrival of Stephen McGann, as Inspector Henry Martin, to put a spanner into their plans. There is a problem with the death certificate and a post-mortem has been ordered – the death was not a natural one after all.

As a whole the production is enjoyable and intriguing with the tension building as the spirit of the departed still seems to haunt the house and the two protagonists begin to suspect and accuse each other. This is much more credible than the idea that they had ever been lovers as, despite the frequent clinches, there was no spark of emotion between them at all.

McGann’s police inspector has a well-portrayed rather ‘Colombo style’ delivery with his deliberations long drawn out, as if he has just thought of something else which puzzles him, only I don’t understand why he has to face the audience so often instead of talking directly to his victims. However the denouement when the culprit is revealed is very well executed.

The sound effects are very overdone and overloud, with Edwina’s beloved wind-chimes frequently ringing at high volume and the obligatory storm almost threatening to overwhelm the whole theatre. On the other hand the Polyphon music sounded truly authentic as was Alan Miller Burford’s solid and sombre Victorian living room.

Katie Evans’s housekeeper, Ellen, has the best comic lines, delivered in caustic tones probably learned from her employer. In fact the show could well benefit from being played as a comedy thriller – towards the end there were quite a few unexpected laughs. Perhaps that’s why McGann avoided eye contact with his colleagues – he had to keep a straight face!

Reviewer: Sheila Connor