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Suddenly At Home

Francis Durbridge
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
(2005)

The annual classic thriller season at the Theatre Royal has become an institution: Colin McIntyre has been presenting a four-play rep programme for 18 years and the summer wouldn't seem the same without it.

Why is it so popular? It gives regular theatregoers the chance to see something live when the only other choice is usually open-air Shakespeare which is not to everyone's taste. The thriller season is also light enough to attract those who want a good, old-fashioned evening's entertainment that's better than watching some of the bland, bottom-numbing offerings served up on television.

This season is hardly any different from previous years - a couple of Francis Durbridges, a three-hander by N J Crisp and one of McIntyre's own plays.

Suddenly At Home is a good opener and far better than Durbridge's Deadly Nightcap which was performed on the same stage 12 months ago.

Set in the 1960s, Suddenly At Home hasn't dated and can't be described simply as a period piece. That's because it has a clever plot, plenty of action and a few red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing about the outcome right until the end.

McIntyre has assembled a couple of thriller-season regulars and a few newcomers who look as though they're enjoying every minute that they're on stage.

Leading the way as usual is Andrew Fettes, a stalwart of this company who's a regular in Nottingham. He has no trouble slipping into the role of Glen Howard, the philandering, volatile, scheming husband who wants to bump off his wealthy wife and take off with his lover. Fettes' anger and lack of patience are always just under the surface; he lives up to his reputation as "the shortest, loudest villain you love to hate." Perhaps, though, he ought to have presented a more distraught front after his wife's death.

India Fisher gives a lively portrayal of his wife Maggie who has more money than sense and Justin Ellery, a Mike Myers lookalike, impresses as trendy author Sam Blaine who's dragged into a murder mystery and throws in a false lead himself.

There are a couple of weak links in the cast and it's stretching the imagination to believe that Glen Howard wouldn't see through Rennick, as played by Jamie Addleton, who's far too young to be a police superintendent.

Occasionally some of the actors ham things up slightly - not really necessary when they've got such strong material to work with.

On the whole director Adrian Lloyd-James has done a fine job, ably assisted by designer Geoff Gilder. The music is pretty good too - mysterious, suspenseful and strong enough to have you jumping out of your seat.

Suddenly At Home won't win any awards - but it's a solid evening's entertainment with an unexpected, dramatic climax that ensures it goes out with a bang.

"Suddenly At Home" continues until July 30th and the thriller season runs until August 20th

Reviewer: Steve Orme