Alex Ferns in Rehearsal for Murder

Alex Ferns in Rehearsal for Murder

From Murder, She Wrote writers Richard Levinson and William Link comes murder mystery play Rehearsal for Murder, adapted for the stage by David Rogers and presented by Bill Kenwright and The Classic Thriller Theatre Company.

A stellar cast came together for the show - Gary Mavers, Alex Ferns, Susie Amy, Anita Harris, Peter Amory, Sophie Powles and Ben Nealon - all providing incredible performances throughout with their talents, but it wasn't quite enough to take away from the show as a whole.

The entire first Act of the performance could have been halved in time and still done the same job. In fact, there were a noticeable portion of the audience absent from the second Act, having left the Opera House in Manchester after the first.

Too long was the story of Alex Dennison and Monica Welles - a writer and actress respectively who had found love working on Dennison's brand new play, with Welles playing the leading role.

On opening night however, mixed reviews come in for the show, and the evening ends with Welles' body falling from her balcony - the actress dead and Dennison convinced that it wasn't the regular suicide the police had put it down to. Bringing the cast and crew of the play together a year later, he's convinced that one of them are culpable in Welles' death and locks them in the same theatre they had their opening night a year before to get answers.

So plays out the search for the truth, but with a twist you would never see coming there are a couple of big surprises awaiting the audience.

When the killer was revealed and true intentions shown, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. The motive and finding out exactly what happened the night of Welles' death however was still disappointing. The killer's motive was shoddy and the whole thing unbelievable. There was too much fantasy weaved into this story and the whole thing left me feeling cold.

Honestly, unless you're a murder mystery theatre completist who needs to tick Rehearsal for Murder off your list, this may be one to skip in preference of a show with a little fresher meat around the bones, such as Agatha Christie's The Mouse Trap.

That's not to say the performances were as dull as the storyline. Sophie Powles was perhaps the biggest shock of the night, proving she's a natural on the stage with her performance as Karen Daniels. She's more at home here than she has ever been on the small screen, so the fact she's now left her role as Holly Barton in ITV's Emmerdale could be the best choice she's ever made. I'd love to see her in some more touring theatre shows in the future.

Susie Amy of Footballers' Wives fame was also brilliant as Monica Welles, reappearing throughout the show despite her character meeting her untimely death. Veteran actress Anita Harris was also perfection in the role of Bella Lamb. It's fair to say that the women in this cast really stole the show.

Lighting designer Douglas Kuhrt must also be praised for his fantastic work. The lighting for me was a major highlight (no pun intended) of the 90-minute production, along with the music and sound used throughout, from sound designer Dan Samson.

Unfortunately, all of that wasn't enough to save Rehearsal for Murder. Bad blocking meant that characters often had their backs to the audience and at times it was a little hard to hear some of the cast. A major reworking and stripping back of this play is needed for it to become one of the classic thrillers on stage.

Rehearsal for Murder runs at the Opera House in Manchester until Saturday October 15.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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