“Rehearsal for Murder” is a production from “The Classic Thriller Theatre Company” presented by veteran theatre producer Bill Kenwright, and is a follow on from the highly successful “The Agatha Christie Theatre Company”. This story is from the well established writing team of Richard Levinson and William Link (Murder, She Wrote and Columbo) and has been adapted for stage by David Rogers.
Reviewing a thriller/mystery play is always a balancing act as you want to give readers a flavour of the story but not enough to spoil the story or any of its twists and turns for those going to the theatre to see the show.
In this story, playwright Alex Dennison (Robert Daws) is a year on from the apparent suicide of his fiancee and leading lady Monica Welles (Amy Robbins, Daws’ wife in real life) but is still not convinced that she was not in fact murdered. To try and establish the identity of her murderer, Dennison has called in the people who were there on Monica’s last evening, allegedly for a reading of his new play.
This is a very well acted and produced piece of theatre, and everyone on stage here does what good theatre can do, and that is pull an audience completely into their world and make them eagerly wait for the next part of the story. Without giving anything of the story away, it is fair to say that this is a complex story with many twists and turns and an ending that I think few people in the audience would have expected. Despite the quality of performances from everyone on stage, this complexity is perhaps one of the very weaknesses of the story as the realistic bounds of credibility and probability are perhaps stretched a little at times.
Some audience members may also have found Amy Robbins’ character Monica Welles a bit confusing at times as although her death is established very early on, Monica plays a central role on stage, but only in the memories and imaginations of the other cast members...they can see her, and we the audience can see her, but Amy is not really there (hope that makes some sense).
“Rehearsal For Murder” is an entertaining piece of theatre, but it is far from a simple “sit back and have it all explained at the end” thriller mystery, and this is a piece of work that you probably need to watch more than once as there are just so many crucial, but easily missed little references throughout the performance that only make sense on a second (or third) viewing after you know the outcome. It was one of those “I know the answer now, but I’m just not sure how we got there in the end” moments for me. Still a highly entertaining example of the power of theatre to tell a story.
Review by Lisa Sibbald