Murder in the Dark

Torben Betts
Original Theatre, Trafalgar Entertainment and JAS Theatricals
Festival Theatre, Malvern

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

Faded pop star Danny and girlfriend Sarah are forced after his mother’s funeral to spend the night with his estranged brother Will, and the wife and son he abandoned 11 years earlier.

They come together at an old house owned by the bible-quoting, possibly homicidal, pig farmer Mrs Bateman whose weird ways would have you dashing to the nearest Holiday Inn. Except, wouldn’t you know, it’s too remote a location to get a taxi, and there is no phone or internet.

When the lights frequently flicker, they oddly stimulate an old TV into broadcasting a recording of Three Blind Mice (Agatha Christie, anyone?) or worse still, the ghost of a young ballet dancer.

Torben Betts’s new play is not so much a whodunnit as a whodunwhat, that mixes horror, suspense and comedy in as potentially lethal a mix as the ingredients of Mrs Bateman’s wild mushroom soup. Things, naturally, are not what they seem, and the twists within a twist are startling.

Tom Chambers plays Danny as a twitching wreck of a character, a man possessed, and by more demons than drink, while ex-Coronation Street Susie Blake emits a gleeful misery as the chatterbox Mrs Bateman. Owen Oakeshott as Will and Rebecca Charles as Danny’s ex preserve the right level of forgiving hostility, with Laura White as the somewhat distant girlfriend and Jonny Green an excitable son Jake.

The UK tour of Murder in the Dark continues to Cardiff, Cheltenham, New Brighton, Richmond and Glasgow.

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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