Murder 1

THEATRE: BEMBRIDGE’S MURDER BY MISADVENTURE A ‘REAL CHALLENGE FOR ACTORS’


Maureen Sullivan is a regular contributor to Island Echo’s coverage of the Arts on the Isle of Wight. Maureen has been actively involved in the Island’s amateur dramatics scene for several years, appearing in many different roles and guises with several theatre companies. In her free time, Maureen also writes and reviews at iwtheatre.org.

Catch Maureen’s column each month for the latest theatre and art happenings...

‘Murder by Misadventure’ is not so much a whodunnit, more a ‘how-did-they-do-it’? The basic premise, a murder plot, is a staple of many a stage play, TV show and film, but there were so many twists and turns in this one that even the twists had twists, leaving the audience baffled right up to the final denouement – and even as I left the Village Hall, I was still thinking ‘ah, so when he said that, he wasn’t exactly telling the truth….’

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Right from the start we know what we’re dealing with, as unsuspecting Harold Kent is busy at his typewriter when Paul Riggs sneaks in armed with a scarf, and tries to strangle him… The attempt on his life is interrupted by the arrival of Harold’s wife Emma – and revealed to be a tryout for a scene in the new play the duo are writing. For Harold and Paul are longstanding and successful writing partners…for the moment.

But their lifestyles and personalities are causing friction between the pair: Harold lives in a luxury penthouse flat overlooking the sea, with his loving wife, while Paul has spent his share of their earnings on booze and a succession of lady friends and now ekes out an existence in a shabby flat. And Harold has just about had enough of Paul’s drinking and unreliability – so he tells Paul the partnership is over….. and that’s the catalyst for the chain of events which follow.

Ralph Edermaniger relishes the role of Harold, the organised writing partner who keeps to the deadlines, believes himself to be in charge and can plan ahead – especially when what he is planning is murder. Keith Partington as Paul is suitably dishevelled and delivers much of his dialogue as if at least half-drunk, as he consumes glass after glass of whisky – with its special additives? The irony is that he is the ideas man, and Harold uses one of his clever ideas for ‘the perfect murder’ to dispose of him.

Jane Robert as Emma, Harold’s wife, appears for most of the play as the submissive, obedient wife who goes along with Harold’s plan, and is apparently horrified when their plans go awry…but is she what she seems? She, like Kevin Chance’s Inspector Egan, who arrives to cross-examine the pair about Paul’s disappearance, are actually characters who are consummate actors themselves, a hard trick to pull off. But they do keep us guessing….

The play is a real challenge for the actors (and for directors Barry and Dianne Aspinall, whose experience is evident in the piece) for none of the characters are likeable or engaging: Harold has his own secrets, in his past and present; Paul is a drunken blackmailer; Emma and the Inspector are for very good reasons written as two-dimensional characters and we are not invited to identify with any of them – the success of the play rests on the plot with its series of twists and turns. It is rather like a very difficult puzzle – and just when you think you have all the pieces in the right place, suddenly one event overturns the board and you have to start all over again. This production succeeds in placing those puzzle pieces in front of us and inviting us to keep guessing….and keep getting it wrong!

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