Murder In The Dark

Torben Betts
Original Theatre, Trafalgar Theatre Productions, JAS Theatricals
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

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Rebecca Charles (Rebecca) Laura White (Sarah) Owen Oakeshott (Will) Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman)Jonny Green (Jake) Tom Chambers (Danny) Credit: Pamela Raith
Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman) Credit: Pamela Raith
Tom Chambers (Danny) Credit: Pamela Raith

Murder In The Dark brings to mind a favourite childhood game, and this is an appropriate starting-point for Torsten Betts’s cleverly constructed play which starts in a familiar place and teeters on the brink of cliché, before unleashing the audience on a rollercoaster of a thriller.

Deliberately not having read anything about the play, I was intrigued by the fact that the age-distribution and social demographic of the audience was very difficult to classify. What had drawn this heterogeneous group to pack out a theatre on a dark midweek evening?

The first half of the play scrolls through a set of familiar themes (group of adults stranded overnight and provided with accommodation by an elderly female farmer). The cast, ably led by Susie Blake as Mrs Bateman and Tom Chambers as Danny, provide convincing performances as the narrative evolves. The relationship between the various characters emerges as the plot develops and Betts employs a skilful mix of drama and humour to move the story forward.

The work done by Philip Franks (director), Simon Kenny (designer), Paul Pyant (lighting designer) and Max Pappenheim (sound designer and composer) increasingly comes into its own as the story unfolds, culminating in the dramatic conclusion of the first half.

It is difficult enough to achieve suspension of disbelief in cinema or television, but it is immeasurably harder in the theatre, so it’s a tribute to everyone involved that we are taken on an absorbing journey through a character’s mental disintegration to reach a shattering conclusion of which Edgar Allan Poe would have been proud.

The momentum swiftly develops in the second half as we are pitched into a waking nightmare where our very grip on reality is challenged and our understanding of events chillingly upturned as we are immersed in a waking nightmare that is the stuff of our childhood fears.

Reviewer: Paul Clark

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