The Sound of Murder

William Fairchild
Talking Scarlet
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Ben Roddy as Peter
Miss Forbes and Anne Norbury

William Fairchild has written a very intriguing story—two women are in love with the same man and one of them is planning a murder, overheard by the other. Will the police be informed, or does other lady have some plans of her own?

The man about to meet his maker is a thoroughly unpleasant Charles Norbury played by Marcus Hutton in as loathsome a manner as he can manage—I’m sure he’s really a very nice man. A writer of children’s books, he hates children but has to be seen as a family man for the sake of his readers, yet he treats his wife like a recalcitrant servant demanding an abortion when she became pregnant and unconditionally refusing her a divorce.

Unsurprisingly, it is wife Anne Norbury who, with the man she intends to marry, is planning the murder unaware that they are being recorded on tape, a conversation found later by Charles’s secretary. What will she do with this knowledge? The opportunity is there to get rid of her rival.

Joanna Bending is Anne and, taking on the role at very short notice with only three days to prepare, plays the frustrated wife extremely well, my only comment being a lack of chemistry between her and her lover (sorry—man friend—this is set in the '60s) and I found it hard to believe that they could be so desperate for each other that they would go so far as to plan a murder. They both only come alive when they are planning the deed itself and, as the tour progresses, they will probably grow closer.

On the same credibility theme, Ben Roddy as lover Peter does not seem a man with the agility to slip silently and unnoticed around a room and up the stairs while Charles is there on the telephone, but with the benefit of suspended disbelief it works quite well.

Power does strange things to a person. It makes Charles aggressively unpleasant but as the story moves on it is secretary Miss Forbes (Michelle Morris) who has discovered power and does she revel in it, to the extent that it even seems to have sent her quite mad with her glittering eyes and wide triumphant smile.

Her plans seem to be working well, but plans for the murder come unstuck at every turn, and the story continues with surprises all the way. John Hester’s Inspector Davidson is the most convincing character (Heston is also associate director) arriving ostensibly to check a gun license although using this as an excuse to ask for a signed message on two books he has bought for his grandchildren. Request rudely refused!

The whole intrigue is played out in David North’s set of the living room of the Norbury’s country cottage over a period of about a month and, being set in the '60s, music of the period is played between scenes, mostly love songs which, considering the subject matter, seemed a little inappropriate—but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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